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Young reserves emerging as contributors

All was not lost for the University of Hawai’i basketball team on its four-game road trip to California last week.

For one, the Rainbow Warriors scored a meaningful win over a Pac-12 team – 90-79 over Utah on Thanksgiving Day. Prior to that victory, previous Hawai’i teams had a combined record of 28-103 (.214 win percentage) against Pac-12 teams.

The Warriors lost three in a row after the Utah win, but the three opponents – Seton Hall, Fresno State and UCLA – are expected to contend for NCAA Tournament spots.

“This trip, we definitely grew a lot as a team, on the court (and) off the court),” sophomore Samuta Avea said. “Playing against good competition kind of showed us where we are at the moment. We showed spurts, but we’re not happy with how it went.”

Also gained in the losses was the emergence of two young reserve players – Avea and freshman Owen Hulland.

In the last two games of the trip (Fresno State and UCLA), Avea averaged 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, and shot 7 for 12 (.583) from the field and 3 for 4 (.750) from 3-point range.

“We can’t be a step back from the starters when I come in,” Avea said. “I just try to keep the same energy going so when they need a break there’s no drop off.”

The 6-foot-6 guard/forward from Hau’ula averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per game as a freshman reserve last season. He said he understands his role this season, but is always looking to expand.

“Energy in all ways,” he said of his mindset off the bench. “Moving the ball, making a play offensively or rebounding ,definitely. Pushing the ball when I can; a whole lot of things.”

Hulland, a 7-foot freshman from Australia, was a somewhat surprising contributor in the loss at UCLA on November 28. He scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed four rebounds while playing significant minutes for the first time all season. Due mostly to a foot injury in the preseason, Hulland had appeared briefly in only two games prior to his breakout performance, and had a total of two points entering the UCLA game.

“I’ve had to overcome some adversity, especially with my foot,” he said. “Those three weeks I missed I couldn’t really get back, so right now I’m just trying to prove myself and trying to get back in the rotation.”

Much of Hulland’s playing minutes against UCLA came against Moses Brown, a 7-1 freshman from New York who was ranked as a Top 25 recruit in the entire country in the high school class of 2018.

“I think it did really well for my confidence,” Hulland said. “When I got in and got couple touches of the ball I felt real comfortable, felt I could hold my own. And then once I started scoring, I felt like I could really compete with these potential NBA players.”

Both Avea and Hulland added that the 10-day trip provided more bonding time for the team. Among the “free time” activities for the players was a visit to Disneyland and a walk around the plush Beverly Hills area.

The UCLA game ended a stretch of eight games in 20 days to open the season for the Warriors. Now they are in a stretch that will feature one game in 17 days.

Hawai’i will host NCAA Division II “brother school” Hawai’i-Hilo on Saturday, December 8, at the Stan Sheriff Center. That will be followed by a full week off from games due to semester finals.

Upcoming Schedule (all at Stan Sheriff Center)
December 8: vs. Hawai’i-Hilo, 7:00 p.m.
December 16: vs. Mississippi Valley State, 5:00 p.m.
December 22: vs. UNLV (Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic), Noon
December 23: Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, TBA
December 25: Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, TBA
December 29: vs. Alabama A&M, 7:00 p.m.

3 Comments

  1. Hulland really impressed me that game and I was wondering why we hadn’t seen more of him earlier in the season. Hopefully his foot is good to go and his minutes increase!

    Avea impressed me as well but he still makes young mistakes. I think w/more playing time these things can be fixed so hopefully Coach Ganot continues to give him opportunities to prove himself.

    I’d like to see better consistency from the starters. They still seem to be shaking off some early season rust. Hopefully they can get over that hump prior to conference play. This team isn’t the most talented but they definitely know how to compete.

    Let’s GO BOWS!!

  2. Totally agree with LetsGoBows. Was really impressed with what I saw from Hulland. Hopefully a sign of more to come!

  3. I would not mind seeing both Samuta and Hulland start the next game.

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