Rainbows hope to rebound in Rainbow Classic
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
If the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is to move forward this week, much will depend on its forwards.
In particular, the Rainbow Warriors are hoping senior Mindaugas Burneika and sophomore Phil Martin can break out of their shooting slumps this week.
UH will play host to the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic this week. The annual tournament, which has been held every year since 1964, is held in such high regard by head coach Riley Wallace that he considers it "a separate season" from the preceding non-conference games and subsequent Western Athletic Conference games.
"There's the games before it, then there's the Rainbow Classic, then there's the WAC season," Wallace said. "Because the level of competition is so high, the team naturally gets fired up for it."
The 'Bows are 6-2 following a heartbreaking loss to San Diego State on Friday, but Wallace said the two losses by a combined five points would be forgotten with a Rainbow Classic championship.
The key to such success this week may be getting Martin and Burneika to heat up.
Martin, a 6-foot-7 starting power forward, is averaging 9.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game better statistics than last season, when he was named to the WAC All-Newcomer team. However, Martin has a field goal percentage of .456, well below his freshman mark of .627, which set a UH record.
"The shot just hasn't been falling," he said. "I had a lot of easy layups and putbacks that I should be making."
Wallace is well aware of that, and even challenged Martin to "be a man" in the low-post this week.
"He doesn't need to remind me, I know," Martin said. "I definitely feel like I need to step it up. I need to play a lot bigger inside."
While Martin's woes have come in the post, Burneika's have been on the perimeter.
Although tied for the team lead with nine 3-pointers, Burneika is shooting .321 from 3-point range. Last season, he led the team with a .423 3-point field goal percentage.
"I'm not getting the same looks I did before," said Burneika, a 6-7 reserve forward. "Maybe the opponents are scouting me or something."
Still, Burneika is averaging 9.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. He also ranks second on the team with 3.4 assists per game.
But as Wallace noted: "When those two guys score double-figures, we're tough to beat."
As proof, Martin is averaging 2.0 points in UH's losses, and 12.3 in its victories; Burneika is scoring 8.0 in the losses, and 10.5 in the wins.
Martin and Burneika scored four points each in the loss to San Diego State, and Wallace said their lack of scoring allowed the Aztecs to successfully defend the UH guards.
"Both those guys need to turn it up and develop a killer instinct," Wallace said. "Neither one has it right now."
At the same time, Wallace has not lost faith in either one. Martin has started every game this season, and will continue to do so this week.
In UH's 61-58 loss to San Diego State, the final play with a chance to tie the game was designed for Burneika.
"If I have a chance to shoot, I'll take the shot," Burneika said. "But if I see my teammate open, I will pass."
UH is scheduled to play Portland in a first-round game of the Rainbow Classic on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. This is the first year that the tournament will take place before Christmas.
Burneika proved his worth in last year's Rainbow Classic, scoring 47 points in three games to earn all-tournament honors.
"The fans come out for the Rainbow Classic, and there's good teams in there," he said. "It's exciting for all of us."
Martin sat on the bench as a redshirt player two seasons ago when UH won the Classic championship.
"I just remember how great that was," he said. "I'd love for it to happen again."
The marquee team in this year's field is Boston College. The Eagles, 9-0 and ranked No. 11, are led by guard Troy Bell, an All-America candidate averaging nearly 25 points per game.
Wheeler to speak: Jackson Wheeler, an assistant coach for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team, will be the Quarterback Club's featured speaker today at the Pagoda International Ballroom
Also scheduled to speak are UH Wahine track coach Carmyn James, Wahine associate cross country coach Andy McInnis and Hawai'i High School Athletic Association executive secretary Keith Amemiya.
Lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. followed by the program around noon. For more information, call Al Minn at 261-5143.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center.
Schedule: WednesdayIona vs. Holy Cross, 5 p.m.; Hawai'i vs. Portland, 7:30 p.m. ThursdayBoston Col. vs. Miami-Ohio, 5 p.m.; Georgia vs. Arkansas St., 7:30 p.m. FridayConsolation games at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m.; semifinals at 5 p.m., 7:30 p.m. SaturdaySeventh place, 11 a.m.; fifth, 1:30 p.m.; third, 5; championship, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: Individual tickets available on day of game; 16 lower level (single seats only); $12 upper level (adult). Ticket packages, $68 lower level; $52 upper level.