Specially delivered victory by Flemings
By Ferd Lewis
For the first season in what head coach Bob Nash calls "modern history" the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team no longer puts players' names on the back of its jerseys.
Where the names have been for decades the "H" logo now resides.
But there was no denying who the Rainbow Warriors' leader was in their regular-season opener last night.
Namely, Roderick Flemings.
The 6-foot-7 senior forward lifted the 'Bows on his shoulders early in the second half to help spirit them to a 65-48 victory over Southern Utah.
Flemings' jumper broke a 8-minute, 13-second drought without a UH field goal in the second half and allowed the 'Bows to overtake the Thunderbirds, 37-36, for a lead they never relinquished.
Flemings had nine points in UH's 17-6 run and finished with a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds, reaffirming his leadership role from last year.
"That's what leaders do and he's certainly our leader and we're going to ride him in a situation like that," Nash said.
And if that wasn't enough to stand out before a Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 3,737, well, there were the only pair of gold and black shoes on the court.
Yes, even among the egalitarian 'Bows who Nash says "play for the name on the front of the jersey" there is room for a star's statement.
"He's special, there's no doubt about that," Nash said.
Flemings was playing at, by his and the coaches' estimate, "about 75 percent" after coming back from a groin injury and abdominal strain that had kept him out all or part of both exhibition games. "He's hurtin' a little bit out there but he sucked it up and did a great job," Nash said. "He was the man out there tonight."
On a night when the 'Bows' shooting went hot and cold, Flemings stepped in to provide the spark when UH needed it most.
"I felt like the guys needed a lift and tried to pick up some of the slack," Flemings said.
At times — five turnovers — he even tried a little too hard. But, more often than not, he was just what the coach ordered.
Meanwhile, Flemings said he is waiting for his own "special order" to come in. "These shoes were just, uh, temporary," Flemings said. "I got 'em over the summer (as a counselor at the adidas camp in Dallas). But you gotta wait to see the ones I'm going to wear this season."
No hints, either. "They are a surprise," Flemings said.
Said Nash: "There's no telling with him. Like I said, he's special."
For sure Flemings was last night against Southern Utah, when he didn't need to have his name on the jersey to be recognized.