Lojeski says teammates get assist for WAC honor
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Just like his jump shot, Matt Lojeski's praise for his teammates on the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team was silky smooth yesterday.
"I kind of want everybody on the team to get recognized for this," he said of the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week award he received yesterday. "The scorers always get the spotlight, but there are guys on this team who don't score and still help the team in a lot of different ways."
True, but it was Lojeski's scoring that propelled the Rainbow Warriors to the championship of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic last week.
Lojeski averaged 24.7 points per game in the three games of the Classic, including a career-high 33 in the championship game victory over Creighton.
"He really stepped up in a big-game situation, but what I like is that he did it in the team scheme," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said. "He didn't take off and score all those points on his own. His teammates found him, and he took shots only when he was open."
The 33 points were the most scored by a Hawai'i player since Carl English got 33 during the 2002-03 season. However, Lojeski did it by shooting 12 of 15 from the field (English went 13 for 22).
Hawai'i has received two WAC Player of the Week awards since the start of the 2005-06 season, and Lojeski owns both. He also received an award as a junior in November of 2005 after the 'Bows upset Michigan State.
"It's nice to get honors like that, but I'm more happy that we're winning and progressing as a team," said Lojeski, a 6-foot-6 senior guard.
Lojeski cited teammate Stephen Verwers as an example of one of the unsung heroes of the Rainbow Classic.
"He got some big rebounds, he played tough (defense), he was changing people's shots down low," Lojeski said. "That's the kind of stuff that doesn't get recognized all the time."
Practice habits also don't get recognized often, and Lojeski and the other "shooters" on the Hawai'i roster have been taking extra shots all this month.
In what has become a daily post-practice drill, Lojeski, Matt Gibson, Bobby Nash, Riley Luettgerodt, Dominic Waters and Todd Lowenthal split up into two separate teams of three and take turns shooting 3-pointers.
Every made shot is counted as two points, but three points are deducted for every missed shot. For example, if Lojeski makes a shot, the group total is plus-2. If the next guy misses, the count drops to minus-1.
The goal is to reach 20 points at three different stations — each corner, and the top of the key. The shooters cannot leave the gym until the goal is achieved.
"It really makes you focus because you're going to be there all night if you start missing," Lojeski said. "I remember one time, we got down to minus-60 and we had to make it all the way back."
Wallace said Lojeski's latest honor was "good for the fans, good for his family because they were here to see it, and good for him because he did it through hard work.
"But it's over with. We're looking to the future now."
The 8-4 'Bows will host 3-10 Tennessee-Martin in a non-conference game tomorrow at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Wallace said the 'Bows need to put the Rainbow Classic and WAC Player of the Week trophies away to focus on the Skyhawks.
"We can't afford a letdown," Wallace said. "We had a good Rainbow Classic, and the WAC starts next week, but we need to take care of this game to keep things rolling." Waters cleared to play
Sophomore guard Dominic Waters returned to practice yesterday after sitting out the last game with a bruised thigh.
Wallace said he expects to use Waters tomorrow as the first guard off the bench.
Starting point guard Matt Gibson still has a bandage under his left eye due to a cut he sustained in a Rainbow Classic semifinal on Friday.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.