New era tips-off for HPU basketball
Baxter Cepeda, Sports editor & Derek Clarkston, accosiate editor
The HPU men’s basketball team will begin a new era Nov. 14
when they step on to the court for the first time in 14 seasons
without their former Head Coach Tony Sellito.
Sellito took HPU to a NAIA national championship in 1993, the
only national championship basketball team to come from Hawai‘i.
Taking over for Sellito is long-time Assistant Coach Russell
Dung, who hopes to continue the success of the Sea Warriors
Dung will inherit a team that went 18-9 overall and 9-6 in
PacWest conference play last year, but most of last year’s team
has graduated, including the four top scorers. HPU has only
five players returning, meaning that there are nine new faces
on the Sea Warrior roster this season.
Nate Block (6-7, 225), a senior in his second year at HPU,
will have to work on his shooting as he is coming off a shoulder
injury that minimized him to 4.8 points per game last year.
Block's ability to defend bigger men, along with leading the
team in rebounding (6.7) last year and his “leadership by example”
should put him in the starting lineup at forward, Dung said.
“Nate is a blue collar type of player. He will play defense
on the toughest big man,” Dung said. “He rebounds, runs the
floor, is healthy now, and should be able to produce offensively.”
Block will co-captain with NicWalters.
Walters (6-0, 170), is a senior who did not get a start last
year but who averaged 5.7 points and 2.2 assists in 13.8 minutes
a game. “He has a lot of athletic ability and can definitely
score,” Dung said of his starting point guard, a position he
sees as an extension of the coach. “He is a very creative point
guard, which is a very important position. Nic understands the
game very well, is very knowledgeable and smart, and sees the
Leandro Maruoka (6-8, 220), a Brazilian who started six games
last season, will start at center. “He has a lot of game and
conference experience,” Dung said. “He definately has the ability
to score points. He is a good shooter: he can shoot from the
free-throw line and extended in that area, as well as down low.”
The senior, who averaged 4.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.3
minutes a game last year, is more of a strong forward than a
center,” Dung said. “He is a good rebounder, a very smart player.
We are looking for him to be another leader on the floor because
of all his experince.”
The other starting forward, Ty Riley (6-4, 210), who was used
sparingly last season, can also play shooting guard. “He is
good in the open floor; he has good ball-handling skills; he
can get to the basket and finish,” Dung said. “He has good vision,
so he is a good passer.” Dung added that Riley’s experience
will also get him a lot of action, but that he would like to
see the junior work on getting his jump shot to be more consistent.
Since the team will play a balanced offense, in which traditional
positions are not always used, Riley will see time at guard.
“We’re giving him the starting nod (at small forward) as of
now,” Dung said.
Jacob Avilla (5-10, 170), the only underclassmen on the team,
will probably not start but will see some action in his second
year as a Sea Warrior. “He is still young, but I watched Jacob
over the summer, and he has developed into a much-improved player
from last year,” Dung said. “He has improved his scoring a lot
and his ball handling.” Avilla, who only played eight minutes
last year, is still in the running for the starting shooting
Those five combined for only 23 starts and accounted for only
21.6 percent of HPU’s total scoring output from last season,
which leaves the team without a proven early offensive threat.
“We will probably have to score by committee because we don’t
have a prolific scorer yet,” said Dung. “You may see different
leading scorers each game, or maybe a steady scorer but not
a prolific scorer.”
What HPU really lost was the outside threat, which the Sea
Warriors relied on much of last season. Nash Subotic and Nick
Spajic set the tone early and often last year, both hitting
above .300 from behind the arch. With both of them gone, Dung
is looking for a different style of play.
Early on they will look inside to their more experienced players,
Block and Maruoka, to carry the load offensively. As the season
develops the coach is hoping that the new guys will start contributing
at the offensive end.
When the Sea Warriors are not going down low, they hope to
play a fast-paced type of game, a transitional style of play,
that will see the guards push the ball up the floor more than
last year's team, Dung said.
To succeed at the fast game that Dung wants to run, the Sea
Warriors are focusing on the defensive aspect of the game. Dung
wants to force turnovers in the full court press. “We feel that
if we put a lot of defensive pressure on team, it will create
a lot more offensive opportunities for us,” said Dung. “We are
looking at that type of game throughout the year.”
Albert Tecul Real
Playing fast basketball can cause sloppy play at times, resulting
in turnovers, something Dung is aware of. “I don’t think we
want to make it a structured style of play where you pass the
ball for about 30 seconds and then shoot. I think we want to
be more action packed,”
The starting shooting guard, the most uncertain position, should
go to junior Marvin Noble (5-11, 180), who starts his first
year at HPU after averaging 15 points and nine assists last
season at Clackamas Community College. “That’s a lot of assists
for anybody,” said Dung. “Marvin is probably a true point guard.”
But when starting, the junior will play out of his ideal position
because of Walters. “Marvin has a lot of talent; he is quick,
and can penetrate,” Dung said. “Marvin sees the floor.” Dung
added that Noble would rather look for the pass first.
“So, if we are playing a small quick team, Marvin and Nic could
play at the same time, but if we play a bigger team, we will
change the personnel: we might have Noble and Avilla substituting.
We can change the lineup a lot.”
Aaron Abrahams (6-4, 205), a junior who three years ago played
for the University of Wyoming in HPU's Thanksgiving Classic,
“loves Hawai‘i;” Dung said. “He has great athletic ability;
he is an all-state player coming out of the San Diego area who
went right to a Division I program, so he definitely has DI
talent.” Abrahams was found through scouting services while
he attended Palomar Junior College last season. “Looking at
him, we thought Aaron could definitely come in and help us because
we had lost so many guards.” Dung said he expects Abrahams,
who will play the two and three position, “to give us a little
scoring punch because he can go to the basket strong and finish,
and he has an outside shot.”
Jay Bussey (6-5, 220), who red-shirted last year, is coming
off knee surgery. “He has worked his way back into shape,” Dung
said. “Right now we have him in the low post rotating but I
think Jay sooner or later will be able to swing, either go inside
or outside. He is a great athlete, but he needs to get more
comfortable on the floor because he has been out a year.”
Junior Mike Baron (6-6, 191), from Germany, in his first season
at HPU out of the College of Siskiyous, “He is very athletic.
He can jump, he can go inside and outside,” Dung said. “Another
versatile player, he is very strong and can defend.We're looking
for good things from him too.”
Senior Rashad Davis (6-8, 215), Orlando Magic star Tracy Mcgrady’s
cousin, is a Div. I transfer from Morris Brown, an independent
school in Georgia. “The stock is good, the body and the numbers
are good,” Dung said. “Rashad is a good addition; he’ll help
strengthen the front line; he's a scoring threat, he has a good
outside shot, gives us another body to rotate, and comes from
a divison one program so you know he has division one talent.”
Fabrizio Mendiola (6-2, 175), a left-handed junior shooting
guard who was on a northwest collegiant championship team at
Tacoma Community College, “definately gives us an outside shot.
A very heady player, he will not take a bad shot,” Dung said.
Mendiola averaged 15 points last year shooting 40-percent from
the three-point line.
Junior Derek Noyes (6-4, 200), an all-state player from the
Colorado area, will give the Sea Warriors a lot of depth at
the shooting guard position, Dung said. “He can score. He can
go inside and outside. He is a very big guard and has a lot
of athletic ability.” Noyes has rehabilitated a shoulder injury
which kept him out last year.
From Spain, junior Albert Tecul Real (5-4, 185), joins HPU
out of Pensacola Junior College, where he played the point.
“He has a lot of ball-handling abilities but he can also shoot
the ball as the two guard, so we don’t lose any ball-handling
opportunites with him on the floor, either at the one or the
Junior guard Zak Stephens (6-1, 170) returns to the Sea Warrior
program after taking last year off. “He is a very smart player
who is always hustling,” Dung said.
So, will the pieces work? “Chemistry is always a question mark
every coach has,” Dung said. “It hasn’t come yet, but probably
will by our first competition in November. If we can get a couple
of victories early, hopefully it will snowball into being successful
in December. By the time conference play comes around, we will
be ready to compete with most of the teams.”