Guard's talent backs his talk
|Video: Waters has a shot|
|||Rainbows 'way behind' schedule|
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Dominic Waters wants a lot of "cookies" this season, including the starting point guard position for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.
Waters is a sophomore for the Rainbow Warriors, and is in a preseason battle to become the starting point guard.
"It's been a struggle at times, but I prepared myself all summer to take over the job," he said. "I feel like I'm much stronger, much more confident. I know the offense well after watching and learning last year. I'm ready to get in there and show what I can do."
Waters is both talented and talkative. Through the first two weeks of practices, he has shown that he has quick hands and a quick wit — a sharpshooter with a sharp tongue.
"Sometimes, when you talk trash, you bring out the best in other guys," he said. "I know when to do it and when not to. When I do say stuff, it's all in fun, and the guys realize that.
"I want to make this team fun; I want to make this year fun. Sometimes, it's tough to get through a three-hour practice, so I'll pick my spots when I can say something or do something to get everybody going."
One of Waters' favorite phrases to yell is "cookies!" when he steals a pass.
"I don't really know where it came from, or how it started, but that's one saying we all use," he said.
In any case, it appears Waters has made significant strides since last season — when he was named the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year.
"That was a big confidence booster, knowing the coaches in the league liked what they saw in me," he said. "Regardless of the numbers I had, they saw I could play."
Waters, who is 6 feet 1 and 170 pounds, averaged 2.9 points per game in a limited role last season.
Over the summer, he returned to his hometown of Portland, Ore., to improve his strength and skills. Some of the players from the area who participated in pick-up games included Fred Jones of the Toronto Raptors, Ime Udoka of the Portland Trail Blazers, and several college players from Oregon, Oregon State, Portland State and Washington.
"It was good competition, and I feel like that made me better," Waters said. "But I was also doing a lot on my own. I read a lot of books on coaching, books about playing defense. And I was training on my own."
Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said the improvement is evident.
"Where he's improved the most is his leadership," Wallace said. "There's times when he looks really good in there at the point. He has a good concept and feeling for what we want to do. The only negative about him right now is his turnovers."
Deonte Tatum, last season's starting point guard and now a student-assistant coach for the 'Bows, said of Waters: "He's a lot better this year. He's physically stronger, more mature. You can see he came back ready to play."
Junior Matt Gibson is probably the front-runner to start at point guard this season, but Wallace said Waters offers the closest competition.
Regardless of who starts, both are expected to see action, so Gibson and Waters should form an exciting combination at the point guard spot.
"It gives your team a whole different look if you have a point guard who scores," Wallace said. "And we're hoping we have the guys to do it this year."
Waters is also hoping to emerge on his own this season. Last season, he was often associated with fellow true freshman point guard Hiram Thompson.
"Even though he was like my competition for playing time, we were best of friends," Waters said. "I miss him, but yeah, it will be nice to establish myself."
Thompson recently started a two-year mission in Iowa for the Mormon church.
Last season, Wallace often commented that the freshmen needed to pay their dues before earning playing time. This season, Waters said there will be no such excuses.
"Freshman year is over," he said. "There's no reason at all for me not to be in there helping this team."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.