New coach for Hawaii basketball | NevadaAppeal.com

New coach for Hawaii basketball

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of articles on Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball teams. Today, the Appeal takes a look at Hawaii.

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

There will be something missing when Hawaii takes the floor next week against San Diego.

Riley Wallace stepped down as head coach after last season, and he was replaced by longtime assistant Bob Nash, a member of the school’s famed “Fabulous Five” teams from the early 1970s.

Nash is excited about his job, and he wants to continue the tradition he and Wallace started 20 years ago.

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“We got a lot of work to do, but we’re optimistic about the season,” Nash said. “We want to win games and get to postseason play. It’s going to take a great deal of dedication by the players and coaches to get there. The things we’re working on are playing hard and playing together.

“My philosophy is I want guys who want to play at the highest level, to be professional in their approach to the game, to not just show up.”

The former UH assistant also wants to put his own stamp on the Rainbow Warriors’ program.

Nash has seven players back from the 18-13 team of a year ago. Hawaii finished 8-8 and in fifth place in the WAC.

The new coach is especially counting on his son, Bobby (11.2 points, 4.1 rebounds), point guard Matt Gibson (9.9, 4.1) and 6-8 post player P.J Owsley (6.0, 4.0) to carry the load early on.

Gibson has started 51 games in the last two seasons, and two years ago, averaged 13 points per game.

“Gibson understands the system,” Nash said. “We hope he steps up and takes on the challenge.”

The elder Nash also expects a lot from his son, who broke loose for 22 against Northwestern State and then 21 against USF last season.

“He (the younger Nash) has to take a leadership role. He has to be a guy that we can depend on,” said his dad. “It’s an honor for me to be able to do that (coach his son).”

Also back are 6-5 wing Riley Luettgerodt (6.2, 3.0), 6-11 post player Steve Verwers (2.8, 3.5), 6-5 wing player Jared Dillinger (0.2, 0.0) and 6-8 post player Alex Veit (0.5, 0.5).

“Stephen was here all summer and worked on his weight and strength,” coach Nash said. “He’s going to be that physical player on the post for us. P.J. has gotten himself into decent shape. He’s a great outside shooter and is starting to build his post defense.”

Coach Nash will be without leading scorer Matt Lojeski, who averaged 16.9 points and 5.7 rebounds a game along with post player Ahmet Gueye, who averaged 12.1 and 8.4, respectively.

True freshman Kareem Nitro (10.1, 3.6 assists) backs up Gibson at point guard. Newcomers on the perimeter are freshman Conrad Fitzgerald (17 ppg.) and sophomore Adhar Mayen from Sudan (13.7, 9.2 rebounds) via Hill Community College. Bill Amis (7.4, 4.6) is a sophomore who played at Pratt Community College in Kansas and Ji Xiang is the ‘Bows first-ever recruit from China.

“His (Nitro’s) defensive skills gives us an added bonus,” Nash said. “We’re excited about his potential. Adhar is a very exciting, explosive wing. He has an incredible upside.”

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

THE HAWAII FILE

Head coach: Bob Nash (1st year)

2006-07 record: 18-13 overall, 8-8 in conference

Starters back/lost: 3/2

Key Nonconference games: Illinois (home, Dec. 16), At New Mexico (Nov. 21).