It’s Sil­ver­swords v. UH War­riors again at Stan Sher­iff Nov. 6

MidWeek Islander (East Oahu) - - FRONT PAGE - By JACK DANILEWICZ

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 jack­ster.1969@ya­

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