Hawai’i Pacific elevates from within, promotes Flabel to associate head coach

Hawai’i Pacific elevates from within, promotes Flabel to associate head coach

via HPU MBB

Hawai’i Pacific elevates from within, promotes Flabel to associate head coach

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JUNE 18, 2024

HONOLULU – A Hawai’i Pacific men’s basketball coaching search has ended with the answer in-house all along for the 2nd consecutive year. 

Cam Flabel was officially named as the Sharks’ new associate head coach on Monday, elevating the Boise, Idaho native after a nationwide search following the departure of former associate HC Patrick Frost. After three years in various roles on staff, the 25-year-old Flabel heads into his 4th season with Hawai’i Pacific as one of the youngest collegiate associate head coaches in the nation – regardless of level.  

“I am really excited about promoting Coach Cam,” said Sharks head coach Jesse Nakanishi. “He has done great work with our program for three years and has earned this opportunity. He has been instrumental in our recruiting efforts turning this program around. He has great relationships with everyone around him, he’s led our work in the HPU and Honolulu community and he epitomizes the grind, having to work multiple jobs to stay in this profession and work the ladder [to this point].” 

Originally brought on by former HPU head coach Darren Vorderbruegge ahead of the 2021 season as a graduate assistant, Flabel spent the past two years as an assistant coach for the Sharks. He remained with the program after Coach V’s retirement in 2023 when the then-associate HC Nakanishi was promoted to the head coach’s chair, taking on an even bigger role for the program’s day-to-day operations and recruiting endeavors.  

“To be able to stay at Hawai’i Pacific and continue to build this program with Coach Nak is a dream come true. I am extremely grateful and excited for this opportunity,” an exuberant Flabel said. “I don’t take [this role] lightly and it’s something I plan on giving my all to, every single day.” 

Following a 20-win season and the most success for the program in more than a half-decade, Flabel takes over a substantial portion of defensive game-planning duties for HPU while continuing the Sharks’ preparation of scouting and film sessions. Other responsibilities for the 25-year-old coach include overseeing the player development of the Sharks’ guards and wings and continuing to lead HPU’s recruiting. 

“I’ve had some great mentors at HPU – Coach Nak, Coach V and Coach Frost. After being here for three years and slowly working my way up, I’ve gained a ton of experience in every single facet of this program,” said Flabel. “[My time at Hawai’i Pacific] has developed me into being a reliable piece of the staff that has experienced everything from recruiting to player development to scouting to coordination. I feel really prepared for this next step.” 

His immediate boss agreed. 

“The program continuity [Flabel] provides, his loyalty and work ethic made this an easy decision. His best years are still ahead of him and we are just fortunate to have Cam around,” Nakanishi definitively stated. 

Off the court, Flabel is expected to continue planning and coordinating community service projects for HPU while serving as a travel and coordination checkpoint for the program. Last season, the Sharks participated in a mentorship program throughout the school year with two local elementary schools among multiple other community outreach projects through Flabel’s efforts.  

“I really pride myself on doing things the right way – treating people well, recruiting good dudes, giving back to the community and putting the work in on the court with our guys,” Flabel said when asked about his core values as a coach. “I want to continue to build this program the right way with the right people. My first year [in Hawai’i] taught me to not take anything for granted and that it’s always a grind to success.” 

After seeing five departures from last season’s roster coming from various routes, HPU has re-loaded again with five new pieces that can help the program this year and in the future. 

“The program is trending in the right direction and I feel like we have the staff, players and resources to turn [Hawai’i Pacific] into a perennial powerhouse,” an enthusiastic Flabel said. 

Sharks’ Shimmy: Hawai’i Pacific’s summer hardwood re-load complete

Sharks’ Shimmy: Hawai’i Pacific’s summer hardwood re-load complete

via Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball

Sharks’ Shimmy: Hawai’i Pacific’s summer hardwood re-load complete

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JUNE 17, 2024

HONOLULU – College athletics in 2024 has become a massive game of musical chairs. Over 1,900 players in Division I college basketball entered their names into the transfer portal after the 2023-24 season, though some also entered the NBA Draft waters. Add in players from Division II, Division III and JUCO levels and it totaled to over 3,000 hoopers that began looking for a new home this offseason. 

Regardless of level, every team remains wondering the same question: when the music stops, who will have a seat at the table of contenders?  

Hawai’i Pacific, who finished 3rd in the PacWest Conference last season and graduated only one player in guard Tyrease Terrell (16 3PT makes in 20 games played), experienced a pair of losses to the portal in 7-foot-4 center Matt Van Komen (7.2 ppg in 22 games played) and leading scorer Melo Sanchez (14.7 ppg in 29 games played) while freshman Nil Jovanovic and junior Nikola Milojevic left the program and American college basketball all together. 

Five out – and not talking about the motion offense – for the Sharks following the program’s most successful season in seven years. For head coach Jesse Nakanishi, year one was only the foundation for HPU while the expectation is now to compete for league titles each year. 

So, the Sharks hit the portal hard themselves. 

PORTAL COMBAT: ROUND 2 

HPU dominated on the defensive end in 2023-24 due to size, scheme and a seemingly non-stop rotation of talented bigs for Nakanishi and staff. After seeing Van Komen in the transfer portal move on to Division I Elon University, a massive hole in the front court remained in the wake. 

Enter former University of San Francisco and Southern Nazarene big man Jonas Visser, who was the first domino to fall for HPU as the 6-foot-10 forward committed to join the Sharks on May 3. Originally from the Netherlands, Visser spent his first four years of college basketball on the roster for USF, appearing in 36 games for the Dons. 

His time in San Francisco saw him crossing paths with Sharks’ captain Maj Dusanic for a pair of seasons in 2020-21 and 2021-22, forming a friendship through the battles on the practice court. After limited playing time while with USF, Visser enjoyed an increased role last season with Southern Nazarene University. The 6-foot-10 forward started in all 30 contests, shooting 63% from the floor while averaging double-digits (10.2 ppg) in 24 minutes each night. 

The big man will be expected to provide a similar calm, low-post scoring presence for Hawai’i Pacific heading into 2024-25. While not as vertically imposing as his predecessor in Van Komen, Visser will make a substantial impact on the Sharks’ defense with his vocal leadership, high basketball IQ and physical strength. 

“He can be an anchor on both ends of the floor for [HPU],” a coach scouting the Dutch forward said. 

Ten days later, former Dominican (IL) guard Joshua West committed to Hawai’i Pacific after an All-NACC 1st-team selection during his sophomore season at Division III. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 17.6 points and 5.2 rebounds over 25 games last year, shooting 50% from the field and 42% from 3-point range. He exceeded the 15-point margin in 18 different contests last year and had at least one steal in all but four games. 

West provides an immediate contributor to the HPU backcourt after the graduation of Tyrease Terrell while coming to the islands with two seasons remaining of eligibility. The definition of a 3-and-D guard, the Chicago-native boasts positional versatility for Nakanishi and company and can fill different roles for the Sharks off the bench or in the starting lineup. 

Still looking for a player to fill the high-usage rate of exiting sophomore Melo Sanchez, Hawai’i Pacific set sights on a pair of transfer portal crown jewels, two high-level shooters from the Division I level, to boost HPU. Former UTRGV guard Sherman Brashear and Boise State wing Pavle Kuzmanovic committed to join the Sharks within 24 hours of each other, giving Nakanishi an embarrassment of riches for his 2024-25 rotation. 

Brashear comes to the islands as an elite shooter who can increase the volume of his shots in his final year of eligibility. After spending the past two seasons coming off the bench for UT Rio Grande Valley, the southpaw sharpshooter dipped his toes in the transfer portal and found paradise with the Sharks. The shifty, sweet-shooting lefty drilled 94 3-pointers in his time with the Vipers, shooting 40% from long range this past year in less than 18 minutes per night. 

At 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, Brashear’s frame compares favorably to Sanchez as he slides into the former San Diego-native’s spot in the offense. A physical guard on both ends of the floor, Brashear is not afraid of contact or bigger bodies. A noted “gym rat” and hard worker, look for Brashear’s numbers to improve as the year goes on and his comfort increases as he works towards all-conference recognition.  

Kuzmanovic, like Brashear, is another offseason portal combat victory for HPU as the versatile wing also joins the Sharks for his final season of eligibility. After spending the first three years of his college career with Boise State, appearing in two NCAA Tournaments and a National Invitational Tournament during that time, Kuzmanovic transferred to Arkansas-Little Rock last year. While there, the Serbian guard dealt with a nagging injury that sidelined him for all but nine contests. 

In the 6-foot-5 Serbian, the Sharks add a 2nd legitimate scorer that will play all guard spots next season while providing an elite catch-and-shoot threat for returning all-conference guard Diggy Winbush and forward Maj Dusanic to find for open looks. Once again like Brashear, his shooting touch is not limited to being set up by teammates.  

Kuzmanovic provides a quality offensive option with the ability to score off the bounce at every level, using the pick-and-roll creatively to produce points for his team. If healthy, he provides another all-conference level talent to the Sharks. 

“He’s got the European-style game,” said one coach of the guard’s court presence. “Just smooth playmaking and creativity and his shot is just pure.” 

In all four players, Hawai’i Pacific sees potential double-digit scorers joining an already loaded returning cast of Winbush, Dusanic, 6-foot-9 forward Charlie Weber and defensive standout Josh Niusulu.  

HIGH SCHOOL SPLASH 

Former Baldwin standout Hudson Yarbrough also joined the Sharks’ offseason recruiting class back on May 21. After winning the MIL Division I Player of the Year award for his senior campaign with the Bears, the 6-foot-8 forward spent two years at Elite Prep (WA) to prepare for college. 

Yarbrough joined a few Sharks players for a player-run scrimmage session back on April 15, visiting the Shark Tank and getting positive reviews as a long-term upside player. With a loaded veteran front court, Yarbrough will be provided an opportunity to develop slowly and adjust to the college game with Weber, Dusanic, Visser and Tucker Pellicci all incumbents on the depth chart. 

TAKE FIVE 

Double entendre, sure. There were five players taken from the HPU roster in the offseason, but the Sharks took five talented players from the portal and high school ranks to replenish the stable of talent in house for Jesse Nakanishi’s program. 

The Sharks, who are searching for their first PacWest title and playoff berth since 2017, are loaded with talent that will need to mesh quickly as HPU looks start hot with a potentially non-conference schedule once again to get battle tested for another year in the competitive PacWest. 

Hawai’i Sports Radio Network (95.1 FM | AM 760) is your home for all Hawai’i Pacific athletic broadcasts. Listen to archived games or check the Program Guide for our next HPU Sharks broadcast. 

Follow Paul Brecht on X/Twitter (@12brecht) for all the latest news for HPU men’s basketball. 

Three HPU Sharks selected to All-PacWest teams ahead of conference tournament

Three HPU Sharks selected to All-PacWest teams ahead of conference tournament

Three HPU Sharks selected to All-PacWest teams ahead of conference tournament

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 6, 2024

SAN DIEGO – The Hawai’i Pacific Sharks men’s basketball team received three honors from the PacWest Conference on Wednesday afternoon as guard Melo Sanchez was placed on the conference’s 2nd-team while Diggy Winbush and Maj Dusanic each received 3rd-team recognition. 

It was the first time any of the three had received end-of-year PacWest honors. 

The 2nd-team selection for Sanchez is the highest placement for a Shark since the 2020-21 season when Lachlan Viney made 1st-team. The sophomore shooter returned to HPU from the transfer portal this past offseason and put in work, finishing the regular season averaging the 9th-most points-per-game of any player in the league. The 6-foot-4 sniper also finished 2nd in the conference with 70 made 3-pointers this season, trailing only Azusa Pacific’s Ken West. 

Winbush, who joined the Sharks extremely late after last season and snatched the starting point guard job quickly, received 3rd-team honors in his first season at the Division II level. The Los Angeles, California product averaged the 4th-most assists per game of any player in the conference for the entire year and 2nd-most after league play began. Winbush also led the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio with 80 dimes to just 43 giveaways while averaging the 2nd-highest point total on the team. 

Dusanic was also named to the PacWest Conference’s 3rd-team after a fantastic second season in blue and grey as the captain forward poured in averages of over 11 points, five rebounds and two assists per game on a scorching 62% from the field, all while starting every one of HPU’s 28 contests this season. The Slovenian forward nearly doubled his scoring output from a year ago while posting three double-doubles, helping push the Sharks to the 3rd-best record in the league. HPU was predicted to finish 9th out of 11 teams in the preseason PacWest coach’s poll. 

Hawai’i Pacific will take on 6th-seeded Azusa Pacific on Thursday in San Diego, California in the quarterfinals of the PacWest Tournament with tip-off scheduled for 10:30 a.m. HT and will be broadcast on Hawai’i Sports Radio Network, 95.1 FM, AM 760 and hawaiisportsradio.com. The winner will face #2 seed and regular season co-champion Academy of Art on Friday at 10:30 a.m. HT in the semifinals. 

The Cougars, who were selected in the preseason as the conference’s top team, are led by three-time PacWest 1st-team selection Ken West and are looking to avenge last year’s performance when APU fell to Point Loma in the title game, 80-68. 

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

HPU 1st-year head coach Jesse Nakanishi flashes a double thumbs-up to the home crowd following the Sharks’ 77-72 victory on Senior Night over Chaminade. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 29, 2024

HONOLULU – Alright, we know where we are dancing. 

The Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball team finished the 2023-24 home schedule flying high, taking down island rival Chaminade on Senior Night with a 77-72 victory as forward Maj Dusanic led the Sharks in front of a packed “Shark Tank” with 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting. The victory clinched a top-three seeding for first-year head coach Jesse Nakanishi’s squad in the PacWest Tournament as HPU returns to postseason play for the first time since the 2016-17 season. 

Before tip-off, the Sharks (18-9, 13-6 PacWest) would honor the only graduating senior in guard Tyrease Terrell – a transfer from Nicholls College and a Slidell, Louisiana-native that joined the program this past offseason in hopes of helping HPU turn around their recent luck on the men’s side. The 6-foot-3 graduate student has dealt with various adversities throughout his single year in the program – including missing playing in his own Senior Night due to a head injury – but always did it with a smile on his face. He was surprised with a video message from his close friends and family along with the Noelani students he has mentored and worked with in the “Shark Bite Mentorship Program” this year on O’ahu. 

Class A7 at the school signed a ball and made a poster in support of the guard’s big night and recorded a “thank you” video for the class favorite that was tear-provoking. 

Much like the women’s game from just before, Chaminade looked as though they would play spoiler of the Sharks’ celebration of Terrell – the lone graduating member of the HPU men’s roster – as the visitors opened an early 5-point lead over the Sharks after Scott Ator’s finish inside five minutes into the action. 

The Silverswords continued the early attack as sophomore standout Ross Reeves got in on the fun with five points in under 40 seconds to put CUH ahead by eight with 13:05 remaining in the first half, 17-9. HPU settled in with a pair of Dusanic finishes under the rim before Jacob Kimura’s first 3-point make of the season brought the Sharks within two just over 11 minutes before halftime. 

Charlie Weber followed it up 66 seconds later with a triple of his own to push the hosts ahead by one before getting fouled on another 3-point try and knocking in all three freebies. Matt Van Komen got on the board for the first time a minute after, giving HPU a six-point advantage with 8:02 to play in the half. 

Dusanic added two more buckets in the following minutes, helping HPU maintain the slim lead before some late-clock chaos struck. Turnovers, cold-shooting and Chaminade’s Reeves and Isaac Amaral-Artharee catching fire with a 12-5 run to end the half sent the visitors into the locker room leading by one, 40-39. 

“We came out of the gates slow,” Nakanishi said of his team’s first half performance. “We’re one of the better defensive teams [in the PacWest conference] and we gave up 40 in the 1st half, so a little slow but at least we scored [well in the 1st half].” 

Much like their counterparts before them, HPU quickly opened the 2nd half with some hot long-range shooting as Melo Sanchez drilled a triple before Diggy Winbush got loose for eight consecutive Sharks points (2 3PTM) to push HPU back in front, 50-46. After Amaral-Artharee and Van Komen traded 2-for-2 trips to the charity stripe, Winbush added another jumper to give Hawai’i Pacific a six-point advantage just under seven minutes into the second half. 

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Chaminade’s Kelton Samore pulled the Silverswords back within two, but back-to-back dunks (including an alley-oop) from the 7-foot-4 Van Komen gave the momentum right back to the Sharks. 

Each side continued trading baskets until Wyatt Lowell’s three with 8:09 to play gave the lead back to Chaminade, 63-62. Another HPU dunk, this time by Dusanic, pushed the Sharks back ahead momentarily until Jessiya Villa got a close-range shot to drop on the next possession for CUH. 

After a 30-second timeout from Nakanishi and HPU, the Sharks got another immediate boost in the arm with 7:08 left as Kimura drained a left-corner three – his second 3-point make of the season – putting the hosts in front for good. 

Dusanic provided some breathing room with another set of back-to-back scores for the team before Lowell brought Chaminade within three once again with 4:41 to play. Van Komen layed in another close-range try and Dusanic scored his 17th and 18th points of the night on the next possession to put the Sharks back up by seven with three and a half minutes left in regulation. 

“We really tried to make them guard more than one ball screen, more than one action and that’s where teams often lose guys like [Van Komen and Dusanic] a bit,” Nakanishi said of the 2nd half dominance in the paint. 

HPU, the top statistical defense in the PacWest going into the night according to points per game allowed, flexed that defensive might as they held Chaminade to four points over the final 3:37 to close out the win on Senior Night, 77-72. 

Chaminade was led by Wyatt Lowell’s 18 points as the senior forward went 3-of-8 from distance in the loss. Ross Reeves finished with 15 points, being held to just two after halftime as the Sharks keyed in on the standout sophomore. Isaac Amaral-Artharee ended his Chaminade Silverswords career with a 10-point outing, bringing his career total to 1,732 points and placing him second all-time in program scoring history. 

Hawai’i Pacific’s Maj Dusanic paced the Sharks with 18 points and 11 rebounds, tallying his third double-double of the season as the forward shot 9-of-10 from the floor. Diggy Winbush added 17 points while tying a season-best seven assists for HPU while Melo Sanchez and Matt Van Komen each chipped in 12 points in the victory. 

The loss ends an injury-riddled season for the Chaminade Silverswords, who finished the year at 10-18 overall and just 6-14 in PacWest play. Junior guard and third-leading scorer Jamir Thomas missed the final eight games of the season for Chaminade after tallying 11.6 points per game across 20 contests. 

“It felt good to get the win but not our best performance,” Nakanishi gave as an evaluation of the night. “[Chaminade]’s a tough team. They’ve got playmakers and they’ve got shot makers.” 

Hawai’i Pacific still has one more regular season game to play, visiting the University of Hawai’i-Hilo on Saturday before preparing for a long-awaited return to the conference tournament. The Sharks will look for a season sweep over UH-Hilo, who has also clinched a spot in next week’s PacWest tournament and is battling with Biola for the rights to the fourth seed over the fifth seed. 

HPU locked themselves into the third seed ahead of next week’s PacWest Tournament in San Diego, California with the win, regardless of Saturday’s result against the University of Hawai’i-Hilo.  

“I’m very proud of our guys,” Nakanishi said of clinching the PacWest’s three-seed. “It does mean a lot that we can get in the conference tournament and not just squeeze in there … we fell short of winning a regular-season championship, but we’ve got as good chance as anybody to go win it in the [PacWest] tournament.” 

Sharks’ backcourt shows out late as Hawai’i Pacific takes down Biola for 4th straight win

Sharks’ backcourt shows out late as Hawai’i Pacific takes down Biola for 4th straight win

Sharks’ backcourt shows out late as Hawai’i Pacific takes down Biola for 4th straight win

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 10, 2024

HONOLULU – Stack ‘em up, Sharks. 

Jesse Nakanishi acknowledged the importance of his team stringing together wins in the second half of the conference schedule following HPU’s 66-58 win over Azusa Pacific back on January 23, noting that his squad had split the last three weeks of games with a win followed by a loss. While the Sharks would drop a heartbreaker at home against Point Loma that following Thursday, his team took the message to heart. 

Since the January 25 home loss against Point Loma, Hawai’i Pacific has not lost in four outings against varying opponents. It started on the road with a gutsy three-point win at Westmont, then was followed by robust performance and 16-point victory at Fresno Pacific before returning home to host two of the conference’s top four programs entering the week in Concordia-Irvine and Biola. 

The Sharks just kept swimming along. 

Hawai’i Pacific dominated Concordia-Irvine from the jump, blitzing the Golden Eagles out of the gate to take a 23-point lead into halftime before cruising to a 66-48 win Thursday night, pushing them into third in the PacWest after Biola fell the same night against UH-Hilo. With Thursday’s results, the Sharks’ homecoming game on Saturday against Biola provided an opportunity to put some distance between HPU and the Eagles. 

HPU did exactly that. 

After Charlie Weber opened the scoring with a right-wing three, Biola answered with a pair of buckets on the other end as Maximo Milovich and Casey Cappo tried to set a physical tone for the visitors. Diggy Winbush did not seem affected by the physical play of the Eagles at all, quickly heating up and scoring the next seven HPU points to push his squad ahead just four minutes into action, 10-9. 

Biola leading scorer Nathan Medina quickly got loose after the under-12-minute media timeout, scoring six consecutive points to push the Eagles back in front by three as the first half ticked under the 10-minute mark. The lead was short-lived as HPU’s Josh Niusulu drilled a triple to knot things at 16 a piece and Kordel Ng followed it up with a pair of makes at the foul stripe to put the Sharks ahead for good. 

Biola would tie things once more at 20-20, but a 13-3 run by HPU to end the half – accented by a Melo Sanchez run-out for a layup at the buzzer – gave Hawai’i Pacific a double-digit advantage going into the locker room. 

Following the break in the action, HPU continued to hold Biola at arm’s length as Niusulu silenced Medina for the second half by holding the sophomore guard scoreless after halftime. On the other end, the Sharks continued to follow the lead of the dynamic backcourt duo of Sanchez and Winbush to build a 16-point lead with less than nine minutes to play after the reigning PacWest player of the week in Sanchez drilled a tough triple on the left side to make it 55-39. 

Foul trouble for HPU and early bonus trips for Biola helped the Eagles bring the game within single digits again as Casey Cappo took over for the visitors and imposed his will before Matthew Van Komen and Maj Dusanic were able to close the paint for business. 

Despite Biola’s best efforts to extend the game as long as possible, the Sharks closed out their fourth consecutive victory and first win over Biola since January 2, 2020, as HPU went 12-of-14 from the charity stripe over the final 93 seconds of the contest and 21-of-28 overall from the foul line to take down the Eagles, 79-70. 

Biola was led by Cappo’s 18 points before the junior from Walnut Creek, California fouled out. Daniel Esparza finished the night with 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting while Medina ended the night with the seven first-half points after Niusulu’s brilliance on the defensive end. The seven points scored by Medina was the sophomore guard’s second-lowest output of the season. 

Hawai’i Pacific’s Diggy Winbush turned in an all-around exceptional performance with 18 points to go along with six boards while tying a season-high with seven assists. His backcourt duo Melo Sanchez poured in 17 points, 15 coming in the second half, to help push the Sharks into double-digit conference wins for the first time since the 2017-18 season. Big Matt Van Komen posted his first double-double with the Sharks, tallying 10 points and 13 rebounds while blocking three shots in 27 minutes of work. 

HPU now hits the road for a two-week West Coast trip, opening with a first-place date with conference-leading Point Loma before playing three of the other top-seven teams. Hawai’i Pacific sits just half-a-game behind Point Loma and Academy of Art for first place in the PacWest.