It’s Silverswords v. UH Warriors again at Stan Sheriff Nov. 6
One sentiment prevailed last year at Chaminade: The Silverswords would be a much better team in 2010-11.
“We’d had a lot of one-year kids the year before who had graduated, so we knew at the beginning of last year that it would be that way,” said head basketball coach Matt Mahar, whose team officially begins practice next week. “We wanted to get some kids in here who would be here longer, so we brought in some freshmen. We knew we’d take some lumps, but we think we’ll be better for it.
“We have a lot of kids back who started games, and except for a couple of positions, everything is wide open.”
They were highly competitive last season with a young lineup, going 10-15 overall and 7-9 in the PacWest. As Mahar is quick to point out, four losses were to Division I teams Maryland, Colorado, Vanderbilt and Hawaii.
“Take away those four, and we’re right around .500,” he said.
It’s equally challenging this year, beginning an exhibition game Nov. 6 against UH at Stan Sheriff Center. It’s the third straight year the ’Swords were able to land UH on their schedule. The schools played an exhibition in 2008, while last year’s meeting, a 70-61 Hawaii win, was an official game.
“We’re thankful to their coaching staff for putting us on the schedule. We weren’t sure about this year because they have a new staff. We look at these games as a privilege to play in.”
Mahar expects the UH exhibition to be good preparation for what will be a busy month. They play Michigan State in their EA Sports Maui Invitational first-round game Nov. 22 (4:30 p.m., ESPN) and will play either UConn or Wichita State the next day. (The Maui field also includes Oklahoma, Virginia, Kentucky and Washington.)
In between UH and the Maui tourney, Chaminade will play the GNAC/Pac West challenge in Lacey, Wash., facing Western Oregon and St. Martin’s. Its home opener at McCabe Gym is Nov. 18 versus Western New Mexico.
Point guard Steven Bennett is perhaps Chaminade’s most visible player after enjoying a stellar junior season, but much of the buzz involves relative newcomer Mamadou Diarra, a 7-foot center who transferred from Southern Cal.
“He was unable to get his release last year, so he’s hungry to get back,” Mahar said of Diarra, who is originally from Bamako, Mali. Diarra was enrolled at Chaminade last year, although he had to sit out a year by NCAA rules, given that USC wouldn’t release him.
Bennett averaged 17 points a game and handed out 126 assists ( against just 73 turnovers) from the point guard spot. He also averaged a team-best 32 minutes per game.
Mahar also welcomes back Shane Hanson (10.9 ppg), who had a memorable 18point performance against Hawaii last December with four 3-pointers. The Silverswords also will have fel- low 3-point shooting ace Matt Cousins, a 6-8 forward, in December. With a yearand-a-half of eligibility remaining, he had to take a semester off under NCAA guidelines.
While Mahar concedes Diarra and Bennett are projected starters, the rest of CUH’s lineup is far from settled as preseason camp begins.
“It will be real interesting,” Mahar said. “We also added five new players to the mix, and they’re definitely bringing in a higher level of competition. Early on, we’ll be way better off than last year.”
Contact Jack Danilewicz at email@example.com.