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Gary’s Blog: Remembering Kobe

By Gary Dickman.

It sure feels good to write about the last University of Hawaii men’s basketball game. For the first time in league play, they won on a Saturday. I wasn’t very confident after Friday night’s loss to Cal State Fullerton. Hawai’i lost, 83-67, in the first game of the two-game series, and UH was on a four-game losing streak. Fullerton isn’t a bad team, but Hawaii’s first two opponents, Riverside and Bakersfield, were better than the Titans. So after Friday’s loss I was hopeful that they could turn things around, but not confident.

The team had a players-only meeting on Friday night, and whatever was said seemed to work. Hawaii was without their starting point guard in both games, Noel Coleman, who sat out with some tooth issues. True freshman Biwali Bayles got the start in both games. In Saturday’s win, Bayles got 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He didn’t shoot well, but he didn’t turn the ball over at all. Let me repeat, a freshman point guard who wasn’t expected to start, played 31 minutes, got 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 0 turnovers. That’s pretty amazing.

There were other players who stepped up as well in the 76-53 win. With a 23-point win on Saturday, that’s a 39-point swing from Friday’s loss. Not too many teams could have accomplished that. Justin Webster is starting to emerge as a go-to guy on offense with his three-point shooting and overall leadership. J-Web got in foul trouble on Saturday, limiting him to 26 minutes on the court. But Webster still contributed in a big way, with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a blocked shot. Two bench players really contributed as well to the victory. Mate Colina, who has been really effective all season long, had 11 rebounds in 20 minutes along with his 5 points. His defense was much better than on Friday. Fullerton scored 14 less points in the paint on Friday, and Colina was a big reason for that.

Justin Hemsley was a real spark off the bench last year, not as much this season, until Saturday. Hemsley scored 8 first half points and added 5 rebounds in Saturday’s win, and was a big factor with his two 3-pointers in that first half. JoVon McClanahan came off the bench in the first half as the back up point guard and had 4 points and 5 assists to help in the win. How about this, UH out-rebounded Fullerton, 48-21, that’s not a typo. It felt great to see how while facing adversity, this team showed what they’re capable of. I’m hoping this is a turning point for our Bows, they’re at 2-4 in the Big West. It doesn’t get any easier this week as UC Irvine comes to town with a 4-0 record and sitting in first place. I hope next week when I write this blog, I’ll be as pleased as I am right now, and talking about a Saturday night win. Maybe a Friday night win as well.

We all know how bad 2020 was. And probably the worst single day was a year ago today. I remember waking up that Sunday morning and as usual, checked my phone for notifications and messages. I saw a text from a friend. It said something about Kobe Bryant. My eyes were a little blurry, or maybe they weren’t. I didn’t believe what my eyes were telling me, because how could it be true that Kobe Bryant died with his daughter Gigi and seven other victims? It didn’t seem real then, and it still doesn’t. How could it be?

Every so often a life is lost by someone so young, so famous, so immune to harm, that it’s hard to believe they’re gone, especially when it happens so suddenly. I’ve been thinking about Kobe a lot this week, as there’s been a lot written, and a lot of his greatest games shown on TV. I could go on about how great a player Kobe was on the court. But you already know that. A few things stand out that separates Kobe from other superstars. Other stars like LeBron or Jordan and Shaq before, all had bodyguards surround them whenever they were out in public. James Harden and Paul George had security around them last year when they played in exhibition games here. Stars also have their close friends with them wherever they go as well. Not Kobe.

When I got a picture with him in his last year, here at the Stan Sheriff Center, he had neither. Kobe didn’t fear the fans, he didn’t shy away from the people he’d meet in public. I read that he enjoyed going with his daughters to the local mall near his house, just being a Girl Dad, I guess. I watched his last game with the Lakers the other night. The only people around him were his wife and daughters. No bodyguards, no group of friends like other superstars. But after his last game, he spent a few minutes with so many people, thanking them. Not just former teammates, but  media, arena workers, etc. I admired that about Kobe. Other stars put themselves way above the common people. Kobe was just being Kobe. It’s kind of sad that superstar athletes won’t allow themselves to be around their fans.

I’ll always remember Kobe on the court, one of the best ever to play this sport. I’ll also remember how he lived his life, how he treated people, and how he loved his family. It’s so tragic that he doesn’t get to still do all that.

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