UH Wariors head into season opener against Hawai‘i Pacific

  • courtesy of University of Hawai‘i athletics department

    Hawai‘i head basketball coach Eran Ganot works with Rainbow Warriors’ senior basketball player Samuta Avea during a practice session. The Rainbow Warriors play its season-opening game against Hawai‘i Pacific basketball at 7 p.m. today in Honolulu.

HONOLULU— Sophomore Justin Webster finds himself in a new position with his team as they prepare to head into the season home-opening game against NCAA Division II opponent Hawai‘i Pacific.

Last season, the then-freshman Rainbow Warriors’ player was a newcomer who played sparingly.

Webster, who started in one-third of the team’s games, averaged 8.8 points per contest and 10 points per game in the nine games he started.

This season, Webster, a standout 6-foot, 3-inch sophomore guard from Hargrave Military Academy in Dallas, was named one of the team’s captains.

The Rainbow Warriors lost Eddie Stansbury, who ranked fourth all-time in three-pointers and made 167, and four-year starter Zigmars Raimo, to graduation.

Hawai‘i also lost Drew Buggs, who was the school’s all-time assist leader and transferred to Missouri, and Samuta Avea chose to opt-out of the 2020-21 season.

“It’s a job I don’t take lightly,” Webster said. “Coming into my sophomore year and leading by example, I have to lead by my voice. I want to lead my team.”

A new look

Hawai‘i is a team that consists of only two seniors and several transfers, which is one reason why Webster was thrown into a leadership role so early.

“We have a whole bunch of newcomers and we have to get our team ready,” Webster said. “I appreciate my peers and my coaches for trusting me.”

Recruiting from the ‘Land Down Under’

Like several mid-major programs, UH coaches and scouts travel the globe looking for raw talent they hope can be molded into great basketball players.

Murray State is a shining example of this phenomenon by finding and developing raw talent when they signed Ja Morant to a collegiate scholarship. He eventually blossomed into an NBA lottery pick.

The Rainbow Warriors have three players from Australia, including guard Junior Madut, center Mate Colina and Biwali Bayles, who will bring the international style of basketball to Hawai‘i.

“We are just playing together, playing in transition, playing hard, defending, rebounding and doing the little things necessary to win,” Webster said.

Playing with no crowd

Basketball is a game predicated on momentum, but because of COVID-19, this year will be a little different.

With no crowds to lift Hawai‘i during their runs, the players are going to have to learn how to be self-motivating.

“Our coach has done a good job, and we emphasize that everyone always brings energy, especially to our first game,” Webster said. “If everyone brings their energy (to the game), we will be ready.”

Follow Along

• When: Today

• Time: 7 p.m.

• Venue: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center

• Location: Honolulu

• Television: Spectrum Sports • BigWest.tv, Kanoa Leahey and Artie Wilson

• ESPN Honolulu • espnhonolulu.com, 1420AM/92.7FM, with Bobby Curran

• Online: HawaiiAtheltics.com

• Social Media: @HawaiiMBB • #HawaiiMBB


Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.


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