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Basketball - look for big men, big things this season

by Derek Clarkston, Sports editor

The Guard Play

Russell Dung’s first season as head coach of the Sea Warriors men’s basketball team went according to plan: get in the win column. The team accomplished that 17 times for a 17-10 record.

With these victories under the young coach’s belt, Dung is pushing for something more for this upcoming season: a PacWest crown and a playoff berth, which would be the first since 1998 for HPU.

“Last year the emphasis was just to try to win games,” said Dung. “This year we have set our goals a little higher, and what I am trying to relate to the players is that we need to concentrate on winning the conference and getting a free-ticket into the post-season.”

If this season’s squad is going to rebound from last season’s 6-9 conference record to capture the PacWest conference this season, Dung is going to have to rely on the play of his three returning guards, Marvin Noble (5-11, 195), Aaron Abrams (6-4, 217) and Albert Tecul (6-4, 190) to lead the team.

This backcourt trio will be a hard combination to contain, as coach Dung is going to start them in a three-guard lineup to begin the season. “Early on in the season, we will rely on our guard play,” said Dung. “Noble and Abrams will carry us until the new guys learn the system. Albert Tecul has also been playing very well.”

Noble, from Portland, Ore, averaged 14.9 points per game last season and started all 27 games for HPU. This season Dung will look at Noble, due to his experience, to bring the team together. “Noble is one of our team captains, and we are going to look at him for team leadership this year,” said Dung.

Abrams, from San Diego, started all 27 games and averaged 14.6 points per game, but appears to be in even better shape this season as he lost 15 pounds from a year ago. Coach Dung said this will help his stamina in getting up and down the court.

Tecul, from Barcelona, Spain, saw the least amount of action out of the three, but did start four games while Nic Walters was injured. Tecul ended the season averaging 2.6 points per game, hitting 34 percent of his shots.

“ Tecul gives us another ball handler on the floor,” said Dung. “He is a big guard and a decent shooter who knows the game, which will help us out a lot.”

Coach Dung hopes that having three guards on the floor at the same time, will open things up for the offence, in a way where they can control the tempo of the game.

“ These guards will carry us early on, but as soon as the big men start coming around I think we will be very successful,” said Dung. “If I could get them running up and down the floor in tandem, I think we will be hard to handle as a team.”

The Big Men

Both big men from a year-ago, Nate Block (6-7, 215) and Leandro Maruoka (6-8, 220) two seniors that graduated left Dung going into the off-season looking to fill the void they left. And he not only acquired one, but four big bodies.

The first acquisition was Aleksander Bojic (6-11, 235), a sophomore from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, who transferred from Garden City College in Kansas. There he averaged 9.5 points and five rebounds per game.

“ I started recruiting Bojic first because he is strictly a five man (center), who is a big, strong, left hander,” said Dung. “Like all Europeans he has a great offensive game in and out.”

Bojic is going to start the season on the bench due to an off-season knee injury.

The signing of Bojic led Dung to Drazen Minic (6-10, 225), another sophomore from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, who transferred from San Jacinto College in Texas, where he helped the team to a runner-up finish in the National Athletic Association Basketball Championship.

Kapena O’Neal (6-8, 260) a junior from Santa Barbara, Calif. joined HPU after lettering two seasons at Santa Barbara City College, where he averaged 12.5 points and six rebounds per game. Dung is going to give O’Neal, the starting nod early in the season. “O’Neal is playing pretty solid right now. He is a big body which gives us presence in the paint,” said Dung. “And he has a decent game from 15 feet and in.”

Audrius Peciukas (6-9, 225) a sophomore from Joniskis, Lithuania, transfed to HPU after playing at Arkansas-Monticello last season. There he played in 24 games averaging four points and three rebounds a game.

“ We hope to utilize these big men by having two of them on the floor at the same time,” said Dung.

The Returning players

Along with Noble, Abrams and Tecul the Sea Warriors return four players from coach Dung’s inaugural season: Mike Baron (6-6, 217), Jay Bussey (6-5, 228), Derek Noyes (6-5, 195) and Zack Stephens (6-1, 170).

Bussey, a senior from Lafayette, Calif., enters his second season for the Sea Warriors and will start along side O‘Neil in the frontcourt. Bussey appeared in 27 games last season, averaging 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

“ Bussey runs the floor, rebounds and plays defense very well,” said Dung. “We are going to look for him to give us a little more scoring punch since we lost two of our scoring threats of last season.”

Baron, a junior from Leverkusen, Germany, red shirted last year due to an injury, but did see action in four games. In those four games he averaged 2.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.

“ Mike has great leaping ability and can definitaly go to the basket as well as play the perimeter game,” said Dung. “We look to him, along with Bussey, to give us an offensive punch.”

Noyes, a junior guard from Denver, Colo., red shirted last year, and Stephens, the only player on the team from Honolulu, is the only four-year letter winner on the squad.

The New Guys

Along with the new big men, Dung also has two other new players new to the system: Alec Jakovljevic (6-6, 240) and Dante Sykes (6-2, 185).

Jakovljevic, a red shirt freshman from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, played alongside fellow Serbians, Bojic and Minic, on the Yugoslavian Junior National team. “ Jakovljevic is a great offensive player who can shoot the three’s with anybody,” said Dung. “He will be a good player in years to come.”

Stykes, a junior guard from San Francisco, is the only newcomer in HPU’s veteran backcourt.

“ Stykes is probably our best athlete on the floor. He can run, jump, dribble,shoot and is very explosive,” said Dung. “He can go the basket anytime he wants which will be a benefit in our transition game.”

The PacWest Conference

“ I don’t think the other teams in the conference will take us as a contender,” said Dung. “We will have to prove ourselves, like any team that is close to the bottom. They better just not take us lightly.”

According to Dung the front-runners in the conference will be University of Hawai‘i-Hilo and Montana State-Billings and Brigham Young-Hawai‘i.

As for the Sea Warriors, he knows that it is going to be a long haul to the title, but feels that this team has the capabilities to do it.

“ It’s going to take about 10 wins to come out on top. It’s going to be tough, but you can’t look ahead, you just have to go out and play every game, like it’s do or die,” said Dung. “And hopefully the record will be favorable for us.”

Openining road trip

The Sea Warriors opened up the season on the road playing in the AT&T Alascom Jamoree, a three team tournament hosted by the University of Alaska-Anchorage Nov. 20-23.
HPU (0-3) dropped all three of their games lossing twice to the host team and once to Eastern Oregon University.

The Sea Warriors opened up the tournament losing to UA-A (3-0), 72-101. Arron Abrams led HPU with 25 points while Marvin Noble chipped in 18 points in a losing effort.

Eastern Oregon (1-2) dropped HPU again on Nov. 22, 85-90. The Sea Warriors were paced by the 19 points by Noble and the 18 points by Abrams and Albert Tecul.

Jay Bussey recoreded a double-double registering 12 points and 11 rebounds.

On Nov. 23 UA-A sent HPU home winless, winning 80-65.

HPU had three players reach double-digits in points: 16 by Noble and 10 each by Tecul and Abrams.

Noble, who averaged 17.7 points and 4.67 assists per game, was the only HPU player to be named to the All-Jamboree team.


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