The Hawaii Pacific men’s basketball program may not be known as a team that has an illustrious history in the national rankings. This season’s rendition of the Sharks is changing that perception.
The Sharks are 20-1 amid their week-long California swing. Chauncey Orr has become the leader of this veteran squad, one that consists of Orr and five fellow seniors. Averaging 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game, Orr has garnered national attention as the head of one of the most prolific offenses in all of Division II’s basketball.
He was named a finalist for the 2017 Bevo Francis Award, honoring the best player in the Division II and III ranks, as well as the NAIA, USCAA and NCCAA.
“It was kind of a surprise,” Orr said. “I’m honored. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without my teammates and my coach. I just want to win. Anything I can do to help my team do that, that’s what I’m going to do.”
It should be no surprise that Orr is atop his game. Basketball is in his blood, being the son of Syracuse legend and former NBA player Louis Orr. The two even teamed up, as Chauncey played for his father for two seasons at Bowling Green.
“He put the ball in my hands at a young age,” Orr said laughing. “My sister played, my dad played, everybody in my family played. I just followed suit. My passion for the game comes from them.
“It was fun playing for him. It lasted for a few years and I’m thankful for it. Now I’m taking it to another level with this team.”
Orr transferred to HPU somewhat on a whim. It has seemingly paid off for both himself and the Sharks.
“I took a chance,” Orr said. “I didn’t take a visit or anything. I got a call from Coach V[orderbruegge], and he told me he had a spot on the team if I wanted it. He told me about the beaches and all that, but he told me he had great guys. I didn’t really even talk to anybody. But I’m glad I chose to come here because the program turned out to be great. I couldn’t have foreseen this happening when I came here. Now that it’s happening, it’s kind of surreal.”
Orr’s first season in Honolulu saw the team win 19 games, their best since the 1998 season. This past summer, the team traveled to Korea, winning a four-game international tournament. Orr knew then this team was for real.
“Those four games together, we saw that we had something special,” Orr said. “As soon as we got back to campus, we started putting in the work. Day by day we are getting better, because we enjoy each other. Off the court we do everything together, because nobody has family out here. We depend on each other.”
The Sharks are in a position to battle for the PacWest title. Their run has seen them re-enter the Top 25 in December for the first time since 1998-99 season. They have since made program history cracking the top ten for the first time, settling in at No. 6 this week.
“Coach is talking a lot about taking it with a grain of salt,” Orr said. “We could easily lose the next nine games if we settle for being in the top ten. That’s not what we want to do, we know what our end goal is. We want to make the national championships and go as far as we can. To do that, we have to keep working and get better every day. I think we will.”
The Sharks have done it behind a high flying offense, tops in the PacWest and ranked No. 13 in DII. The big difference this season has been their much improved defense. Their 65.3 points allowed a game are also tops in the PacWest and No. 10 in DII, as well as a seven-point improvement from last season.
This week’s trip to California features a rematch with California Baptist, who are responsible for the Sharks lone loss. They also have to face last season’s PacWest regular season champion Azusa Pacific.
“We had a tough one against us when they [Cal Baptist] came here, but they are a really good team,” Orr said. “They have a good coach and a great program. At the same time, we feel like we have the same thing here. Going there, I do feel like we have a chip on our shoulders with something to prove.”
They got off on the right foot, avenging their lone loss and defeating Cal Baptist Thursday night. The smothering defense was on display, as they held a team that scored better than 85 points a game to just 67 points. Orr had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, as the Sharks gained sole possession of first place in the PacWest.
While Orr and the Sharks are focused on their next game, there is no denying his love for the game. Orr hopes that when the Sharks run through the postseason concludes, his basketball career will continue.
“I want to try and play as long I can,” Orr said. “Whatever opportunities that come my way, I’ll explore. It’s a possibility that I’ll want to get into coaching. I saw what my dad had to go through, the good and the bad. I definitely want to stay around the game, whatever opportunities come, I’ll take.”