Basketball 'Bows inspired by football Warriors
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
There was a lot of pride and a little bit of envy when the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team watched its football brothers win the Western Athletic Conference championship on Friday.
The Rainbow Warriors were among the record crowd of 49,651 at Aloha Stadium on Friday, when the Hawai'i football team beat Boise State.
"That was the best atmosphere I've ever been involved in," senior guard Riley Luettgerodt said. "If we get some wins going this season, I hope the people pick up on it and give us just a little bit of that same support. I would love to play in an atmosphere like that."
First, the basketball 'Bows need to get a winning streak going. They can start one Tuesday, when they host Coppin State at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Hawai'i is 1-3; Coppin State is 3-3. The teams also played last season, with the 'Bows beating the Eagles, 79-67.
"We need to get our competitiveness back," Luettgerodt said. "But being at home, and watching what the football team did ... we're fired up."
Luettgerodt, Jared Dillinger and Stephen Verwers were among the thousands of fans who stormed the Aloha Stadium field after the victory.
"We kind of just watched to see what would happen," Luettgerodt said. "Once we saw a couple other people make it, we said 'we're going for it.' I followed Big Steve (Verwers). I figured no one would step in front of him."
Other 'Bows weren't quite as adventurous.
"I saw all them crazy people jumping on each other and I didn't want to rush the field," freshman Kareem Nitoto said. "That was too crazy. It was fun, though, just to be at that game."
Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash also attended the game and described the post-victory celebration as "awesome."
He said he would welcome the basketball fans on the Sheriff Center court ... but only if the 'Bows can match what the football team did.
"I would love to celebrate with the fans like that," Nash said. "But we still have a lot of work to do to get to that point. If we have a chance to play for a WAC championship, I would hope that the fans support us as well."
'BOWS ADJUSTING WITH GIBSON BACK IN MIX
The return of senior point guard Matt Gibson has brought a sense of normalcy to the last two practices.
Gibson was cleared to practice Friday after missing more than two weeks — and four games — with an injured left knee.
"Anytime you can get senior leadership at the point guard position, that's going to help the whole team," Nash said.
While Gibson was inactive, Bobby Nash, Luettgerodt and Dillinger shared the point guard duties with the first team.
"Our record doesn't show it, but I thought we did an OK job for not being point guards," Luettgerodt said. "But it's definitely nice to have Matt back."
Nash said: "It helps guys like Bobby and Riley and Jared because now they can set up for the shots that they're most comfortable with."
Nitoto — the only other true point guard on the roster — gained valuable experience in Gibson's absence, and he will continue to play a reserve role.
NEWCOMERS LEARNING THE RIGORS OF THE ROAD
The first-year Rainbows are quickly learning how difficult road trips can be for Hawai'i teams, and not just because of the 89-60 loss at New Mexico last week.
The team returned from Albuquerque Thursday, and some players were still recovering yesterday.
"I got real sick with the climate change," Nitoto said. "I'm just feeling better now."
Sophomore Adhar Mayen, who is 6 feet 8, said he discovered why all the "big men" are always in a rush to check-in at the airports.
"Whoever gets there first gets the exit rows," he said. "You don't want to be stuck in the middle for a long flight."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.