HPU visits Special Education Center of Hawai’i for March Madness Event

HPU visits Special Education Center of Hawai’i for March Madness Event

HPU men’s basketball visited the Special Education Center of Hawai’i’s Diamond Head location on Tuesday morning for SECOH’s March Madness event. | Photo Credit: HPU men’s basketball

HPU visits Special Education Center of Hawai’i for March Madness Event

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APR 2, 2024

HONOLULU – They call it the “Big Dance” for a reason. 

Hawai’i Pacific’s men’s basketball team continued an emphasis on giving back to the local community on Tuesday, visiting the Diamond Head location for the Special Education Center of Hawai’i (SECOH) to help prepare the clients for their “March Madness” event. 

SECOH’s mission, as stated on their website, is to provide personalized services to people with disabilities in the spirit of enriching lives. Working with clients of all ages, HPU had 12 representatives (three coaches, nine players) in attendance for a day full of fun. In honor of the NCAA Tournament for both men and women, SECOH and HPU’s men’s basketball team combined forces for an hour-and-a-half practice session for clients to go through basic basketball skills drills with the team – with some breaks for bonding on the side. 

It was something that clients had been looking forward to ahead of time, says HPU athletic director Debbie Snell – who has a son named Dillon that attends SECOH. Dillon, an avid Sharks fan that could be seen at numerous games inside the Shark Tank this past season, was just one of MANY people excited to work with HPU. 

The team arrived around 9:40 a.m. for the 10 a.m. session, excitedly anxious to get to work giving back to those in local communities in just another way. Despite having offseason workout sessions later in the day around noon, nine players (who didn’t have academic responsibilities as a time conflict) from last year’s squad piled into the Diamond Head location to help prepare those at SECOH for Wednesday’s modified and non-modified scrimmages. Along with head coach Jesse Nakanishi, associate head coach Patrick Frost and assistant coach and lead recruiter Cam Flabel, even soon-to-be graduate Tyrease Terell joined the Sharks in the fray despite his eligibility being used up. 

“The team is amazing and so good with folks from all different backgrounds and levels of ability,” athletic director Debbie Snell said about the men’s basketball program at HPU. “The way they jump right in and make the experience memorable for the participants is truly heart-warming.” 

It wasn’t all hoops, there were times for dance breaks and bonding between SECOH’s clients and the Sharks’ hoopers. 

“Today was an awesome, new experience for our team visiting SECOH and helping their clients with their March Madness event,” Flabel said in a phone interview with HSRN. “It was a great event filled with lots of smiles, laughter and dance moves! We were happy to help come together and make an impact and help make their day. It’s all about perspective and that is something we are reminded about daily.” 

The fun day is just another example of the continuous work that Nakanishi and his program do in the community. During the 2023-24 regular season, Hawai’i Pacific men’s basketball received the runner-up title for the 2024 Division II Award of Excellence while being the winner for the honor from the PacWest conference. Among the events the team participated, planned and put together were Maui Food Drives, basketball clinics to support the rebuild of the island after the Maui wildfires and the first annual “Field Trip Game” in conjunction with the Shark Bite Mentorship programs the team participates in with Noelani Elementary School and Mānoa Elementary School. 

*Note: Photos provided by 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.” 

Hawai’i Pacific cruises past Concordia-Irvine behind Sanchez’s double-double

Hawai’i Pacific cruises past Concordia-Irvine behind Sanchez’s double-double

Hawai’i Pacific cruises past Concordia-Irvine behind Sanchez’s double-double

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 8, 2024

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball team dispatched Concordia-Irvine University (10-11, 7-8 PacWest) on Thursday night inside the Shark Tank, using the combo of captains Maj Dusanic and defending PacWest Player of the Week Melo Sanchez to ground the Golden Eagles, 66-48. 

HPU (14-7, 9-4 PacWest) worked itself out to an early 8-4 lead as Dusanic got a trio of easy baskets to go down, including a two-handed stuff, while CUI’s offense sputtered along. Golden Eagles’ guard Jackson Tucker took things into his own hands, scoring three points in a row for the visitors before Jesse Nakanishi’s team turned the defensive intensity up another level. 

The Sharks ripped off a 14-0 run, spanning past the midway point of the opening half of play to take a 22-7 lead after Melo Sanchez found Ethan Taafe for a triple with 9:43 left in the frame and forced a timeout from Concordia-Irvine’s 23rd-year head coach Ken Ammann. His team finally snapped the scoring drought on the other side of the timeout with a pair of Jackson Harding makes from the charity stripe, but HPU answered right back with five straight points of their own as Matthew Van Komen muscled home his second layup of the night before Josh Niusulu drilled a reset-and-shoot triple to push it out to an 18-point advantage before the visitors could score again. 

After another quick three-point run from CUI, the Sharks turned up the long-distance shooting by drilling three straight three-pointers, tripling up Concordia 36-12 with 1:59 remaining in the first half as Sanchez laced the nylon once again from deep. The Golden Eagles’ offense finally recovered just before the break, pushing five points on the board thanks to Charlie Dalton while the Sharks added a couple more baskets to go into halftime with Hawai’i Pacific leading, 40-17. 

The Golden Eagles started the second half far better, ripping off a 15-4 run over the first eight minutes and forty-five seconds out of the halftime break to bring the game within striking distance, 44-32. 

That’s when Sanchez, the reigning PacWest player of the week, took things over for the Sharks’ offense as he drilled a deep three from the top of the key before finding Van Komen on the next trip down the floor for an easy lay-in to push the lead back up to 17 and steady the team once again. 

Niusulu added consecutive layups to make it a 20-plus point advantage again for HPU with just under nine minutes left to play, becoming the third different Shark to reach double figures on the night with 13 points. CUI put on one last run, bringing the margin within 11 with five and a half minutes remaining but never came closer as Hawai’i Pacific closed out the final four minutes with Dusanic and Sanchez taking turns sticking in the daggers of a 66-48 win. 

CUI was led by graduate forward Tim Adetukasi, who racked up 12 points on just 4-of-13 shooting from the floor across 35 minutes of action. Sophomore forward Jackson Tucker followed closely behind with 11 points while freshman forward Charlie Dalton added nine points and seven rebounds in the loss for the Golden Eagles. 

Melo Sanchez continued his all-around play for the Sharks, turning in his first double-double of the season with a game-best 16 points to go along with 10 boards. Sharks forward Maj Dusanic tailed his co-captain closely, ending the night with 15 points and nine rebounds — narrowly missing out on his second consecutive double-double and third total of the year. 

Hawai’i Pacific returns to the hardwood this Saturday, hosting Biola for the second-to-last home game of the season with eyes on second place in the conference standings. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. HT or following the conclusion of the women’s contest. HPU is currently within a game of Academy of Art, Point Loma and Biola in the race to the PacWest tournament’s top-four berths.  

HPU’s “Field Trip Day” results in playoff atmosphere, big win over preseason PacWest favorite APU

HPU’s “Field Trip Day” results in playoff atmosphere, big win over preseason PacWest favorite APU

HPU forward Charlie Weber drives against Dominican (CA) in a game on January 13 that the Sharks won, 83-72. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

HPU’s “Field Trip Day” results in playoff atmosphere, big win over preseason PacWest favorite APU

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 23, 2024

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball team (11-6, 6-3 PacWest) hosted over 400 screaming elementary school students from Mānoa and Noelani on Tuesday for the first annual “Field Trip Day” as the Sharks took down conference preseason favorite Azusa Pacific, 66-58. 

A part of HPU’s men’s basketball team’s “Shark Bite Mentorship Program” and community outreach in the first year of Jesse Nakanishi’s tenure, the Sharks go to the two elementary schools once a month to discuss healthy living, the importance of taking care of business in the classroom and playing games together among many other things. To continue the bond that has grown between players and the students, HPU and the schools agreed to have the students bussed in for a special time to see the young men that worked with them throughout the fall with a special outing on Tuesday. 

HPU opened the game scoring the first four points as Maj Dusanic and Charlie Weber got back-to-back buckets to go down and took a 6-3 lead after Weber got a short jumper to drop. After APU guard Bryce Sloan sliced the nylon from deep to tie things at six, the Sharks rattled off a 12-2 run to grab control of the game and take an 18-8 lead with 7:56 remaining in the first half. 

The two-headed monster of Dusanic and Weber continued to power the Sharks’ offense, scoring 14 of 16 HPU’s points to close the half — including back-to-back three-pointers from the left wing to send Hawai’i Pacific into the break with a 14-point lead, 34-20. 

Dusanic continued an explosive scoring outburst with a two-handed slam when action resumed in the second half to match their largest lead of the game, 36-20, sending the 415 screaming elementary schoolers into a frenzy. 

The teams would trade baskets until the 12-minute mark when Azusa Pacific started to cut into the Sharks’ lead as leading scorer Ken West finally got on the board with a few buckets. Three-pointers from APU’s Trevan Martin and Nate Kleppe brought the Cougars with six, 48-42, with just over eight minutes remaining in regulation to force Nakanishi to call for a timeout. 

Azusa closed the gap all the way down to one with 3:13 left after West drilled a triple and forward George Reidy went a perfect 2-of-2 at the charity stripe, making it 3:13 and leaving the packed gym uneasy with the game in the balance. 

Diggy Winbush calmed those nerves with a huge three from straight away to push HPU’s lead back to four the very next play, going over 200 points on the season and becoming the first junior college player to join the Sharks and eclipse that threshold in their debut season since the 2018-19 season when Ronald Blain accomplished the feat. He would score the next three points for Hawai’i Pacific to grab some breathing room as the Sharks showed off their excellent late game execution again to pull out their second consecutive win and eighth win inside the “Shark Tank” this season, 66-58. 

APU’s Bryce Sloan led all scorers with 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the floor, dropping four threes to go along with six boards and six assists in the loss for the Cougars, who sit a game and a half outside of the top six and playoff positioning in the Pacific West conference. Forward Ken West finished with 10 points, all coming in the second half as the Sharks shut down APU’s top scorer for much of the contest. 

Hawai’i Pacific was led by Maj Dusanic’s career-high 22 points, the first time the senior has eclipsed the 20-point threshold in his college career, en route to earning HSRN’s “YeahU Player of the Game” honors. Forward Charlie Weber posted 19 points, his ninth consecutive game finishing in double-digits for the Sharks, continuing his efficient scoring efforts since entering the starting lineup with an 8-of-12 shooting performance. 

HPU will host Point Loma on Thursday, January 25 inside the “Shark Tank” for a massive PacWest matchup between two of the top four teams in the conference. PLNU comes to O’ahu following a crushing overtime defeat to UH-Hilo on Tuesday after former UH-Mānoa forward Zoar Nedd’s heroic shooting efforts helped to sink the Sea Lions.