Taylor Making His Case To Stay
If Benjy Taylor wants to shed his current interim label as acting head coach of the UH men’s basketball team, he sure is making a strong case. Entering this week’s start of Big West Conference play, Taylor has the ‘Bows off to one of their best starts in years.
Victories over Pittsburgh, Nebraska and Colorado, plus a near-miss overtime loss to nationally ranked Wichita State, have shown just how exciting this team can be. I’ve had friends from around the country who watched Hawaii play on ESPN during the recent Diamond Head Classic tell me they think this is one of the most talented UH teams they’ve seen in quite awhile. I have to agree.
My personal favorite player to watch is Isaac Fleming, who has come off the bench to ignite the team on several occasions. Roderick Bobbitt leads the team in steals, Aaron Valdes and Garrett Nevels (if they can stay healthy) are outstanding scoring threats, and the “twin” Stefans, Jankovic and Jovanovic, both at 6-foot-11, give this team some legitimate inside presence.
Add Taylor’s enthusiastic mentorship and you’ve got a team that is playing loose and making big plays when it needs to. Now comes the toughest part of the season: the grueling conference schedule. The ‘Bows open Big West play at home in the friendly confines of Stan Sheriff Center against Cal Poly (Jan. 7) and follow up with Cal State Northridge (Jan. 10).
If the ‘Bows are going to be legitimate conference contenders, and I believe based on their non-conference play that this is a real possibility, then they can’t stumble out of the blocks. These are two “must have” games this week — setting up a chance to show how truly good they are when they start hitting the conference road next week.
While the Hawaii men’s basketball team is at home this first week, Laura Beeman’s UH Wahine are on the road at Cal Poly and CSUN this Thursday and Saturday. Their home conference opener is set for Jan. 17 against UC Riverside. If the Wahine want to make some noise this Big West season, winning at least two of these first three will make a big statement.
The UH men’s and women’s teams aren’t the only college teams on the island with key contests. The PacWest season really heats up for BYU-Hawaii, Chaminade and HPU this week. The goal is to make the conference tournament in Irvine in early March.
Ken Wagner’s BYU-Hawaii Seasiders got off to their best start in recent history with eight straight wins to open the year. The Seasiders host a trio of Mainland foes this week: Fresno Pacific Tuesday (Jan. 6), Dixie State Thursday (Jan. 8) and Notre Dame de Namur Saturday (Jan. 10). Chaminade’s Eric Bovaird pits his high-scoring Silverswords against Dixie State Tuesday and Fresno Pacific Thursday, while Darren Vorderbruegge’s HPU Sharks battle Point Loma Monday, followed by NDNU Thursday and Fresno Pacific Saturday. Yes, it’s a busy week.
The women’s games for each of these matchups precede the men’s games. Hawaii Pacific’s women’s team ended 2014 with the best record in the conference, so the Sharks have a chance to get off to an impressive start in 2015.
For Hawaii hoop fans, this is indeed a terrific week. You have a chance to catch great college basketball four of the five days, and there’s no doubt a great high school contest is the offing Friday. So, hoop it up, Hawaii. It promises to be an awesome season!