High expectations: Rainbow Warrior basketball team looking to make a statement this upcoming season

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The first message that Rainbow Warrior basketball head coach Eran Ganot wants to send to his team this season doesn't involve giving a grand speech.

A three-word mission statement has been the calling card for Ganot since he took over the helm of the program two years ago, it instills in his players the importance of playing hard while setting a high standard of excellence for the program.

To simply put it, he wants his team to "set the tone."

"It's my first note all the time: set the tone," Ganot said before the team's first practice of the new season Friday afternoon at the Stan Sheriff Center. "First five minutes of a game, the first five minutes of the second half, the first five minutes of practice; you try to mimic as much as you can for what's coming. I think it's really important to have a great practice and really start it off on a good note."

Looking to start the 2017-2018 season on a good note are returnees Gibson Johnson and Jack Purchase, who are looking forward to expanded roles this upcoming season as veteran presences on an otherwise young basketball team.

As a JUCO transfer last season, Johnson admitted Friday that he didn't know what to expect in terms of his role on the team. After being an essential piece of Hawaii's team last season, he embraces the role as a leader.

"(It's) definitely a better feel than we had last year," he said. "We were pretty fresh and raw last year, but we're ready to go and you can get a feel with this team. A lot of excitement and a lot of potential about what we can accomplish this year … I just look forward to accomplishing whatever role this team gives me this year."

For Purchase, the team's sharpshooter from deep, he is looking forward to showing off other aspects of his game, all while knocking down shots when called upon.

But having a player like Mike Thomas joining him in the frontcourt this season after missing last season with a wrist injury gives Purchase high expectations not only for himself, but also for the team.

"Expectations? Our expectation is to win it," he said. "We're setting the bar high and we want to go back to the tournament. I think that the biggest thing for us if that we got to stay composed all year but we'll be alright. We're looking forward to getting the season underway. (Mike's) one of our captains, so he's a great leader for us. I was there that year for the NCAA Tournament and I was just going up against him everyday in practice. I know what Mike's like and it's great to have him back."

Ganot has stressed to his team to put the work in early this season so that results will pay-off later down the road. Free from any off-court distractions that loomed over the team last season, the team is just happy to focus on the game that happens on the court.

"We're just excited to get back playing," Johnson said. "We've been playing with each other throughout the summer, but it's fun to get official practice started and get ready for the season coming up."

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