Will beats coach in tournament

Falcons head coach Jeff Hironaka squatted pensively on the sideline just like he would at any other game, shouting occasional directions for his players.

And just like at any other game, senior Rob Will glanced over when he heard Hironaka’s call. After all, Will has developed an ear for his coach’s voice as a member of the SPU men’s basketball team for the last four years.

Only this time, Will wasn’t playing for Hironaka. In fact, it was quite the opposite: He was busy helping beat his coach’s team. Will had nine points and four rebounds as he and his Louis Perry & Associates teammates got the better of Hironaka, 106-95, in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) semifinals on Friday in Wadsworth, Ohio.

The player-coach matchup highlighted a weekend at the CBI for the SPU duo, with Will’s team taking second and Hironaka’s squad fourth.

A destination for professional scouts, CBI showcases graduating players from National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Divisions II and III and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Divisions I and II. Eight teams of eight players each compete in the CBI, with each team playing three games.

Hironaka was among the coaches asked to participate in the event. He also contributed by nominating players for the CBI during the season. The ultimate decision on participants fell to tournament founder John McCarthy and the selection committee, who finalized the list of invitees earlier this spring, Hironaka said.

"I was honored to be picked among the 64 seniors," Will said of the invitation to play in the tournament. "There were something like 1,000 schools in the running, so it’s definitely a big honor to go back there and play and be a part of it."

Playing in front of a national audience on ESPNU in the CBI championship game on Friday, Will scored six points with nine rebounds in 16 minutes of action, but his team fell to team First Merit 87-72.

Hironaka and his City of Wadsworth team won their first contest against Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital 99-78 before dropping their final two games. Trying to balance a team of star players who aren’t used to playing with one another can be a challenge, but Hironaka said he wasn’t focused on team results.

"It would be [tough] if I were trying to win the thing," Hironaka said. "Knowing that you’re trying to showcase the kids, at least on my behalf, I tried to play everyone equally. What I did with my group was, we subbed every five minutes, and the last five minutes were at my discretion."

Hironaka said teams had one 90-minute practice session to install some basic plays and establish a game plan before the event kicked off on Thursday. Players also visited elementary schools in Wadsworth, and enjoyed a banquet with introductions to all the participants.

Will’s selection meant that SPU sent a representative to the CBI for the second straight year. 2007 Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) co-player of the year Dustin Bremerman earned an invite last spring.

Boosted by his appearances at the CBI and the NCAA Division II/NABC All-Star Game, Bremerman went on to sign with the Bendigo Braves in Australia. Like Bremerman, Will hopes the tournament will boost his chances of playing professionally after graduation. He said pointers from former teammates and current pros Bremerman and Tony Binetti, among others, have been helpful in understanding how to market himself to scouts.

"I’d like to do it for a couple years and have the experience of being in a different part of the world," Will said of playing overseas. "It would be nice not having to work full-time right off the bat."

To catch the eye of scouts, Hironaka said players must put together a DVD of their game footage, compose a resume, and hire an agent to seek out opportunities.

"He was approached by three or four people who liked what he did," Hironaka said of Will. "Rob saw what he had to work on, how athletic a lot of those guys were, and what he’s got to do to give himself an opportunity to play somewhere next year."

For now, Will continues to scrimmage daily with his Falcon teammates and seek opportunities beyond Royal Brougham. No matter what happens with his playing career, Will knows he has some bragging rights among the inner circles at SPU after beating his coach. But he has yet to crow too much about the CBI semifinal victory.

"I’ve been saving it for when we get back," Will said. "But I’ll bring it out every once in a while."

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Title: Will beats coach in tournament | Author: Daniel Miller | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2008-04-30 | Internal ID: 6474