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Manel Ayol commits to join Warriors

Photo from Western Wyoming CC

Instead of hunkering down, Manel Ayol opted to expand his horizons this week.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has put much of the nation in lockdown situations, Ayol decided that he wants to bring his lockdown defense to the University of Hawai’i basketball team. The 6-foot-7 forward at Western Wyoming Community College made a commitment this week to play for the Rainbow Warriors.

Ayol was born in South Sudan, raised in Australia, attended a year of high school in Colorado, a year of prep school in Canada, then two years of junior college in Wyoming. If all goes well, two years in Hawai’i are next.

Although there are numerous uncertainties due to the pandemic, Ayol plans to join the Warriors as a junior for the 2020-21 season. He made his commitment to Hawai’i despite not taking any official visits.

“I was going to do all of my visits after the season,” he explained. “But once this virus started going around, all the trips were called off and nobody knew when it would be back. After that, I decided to narrow it down myself to the places that I had the best relationships with, and the schools that had what I was looking for. Once I looked at everything, Hawai’i was the perfect fit. I was 100 percent confident in that, and so I decided to commit.”

By all accounts, the Warriors are getting a good one. Ayol averaged 16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as a sophomore this past season at Western Wyoming. He shot 51.6 percent from the field, including 39.3 percent (46 for 117) from 3-point range, and 80.3 percent on free throws. He was named the National Junior College Athletic Association Region IX Player of the Year after leading Western Wyoming to the regional championship and a 30-4 record.

His team already earned a spot in the JUCO National Championship Tournament before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were clicking throughout the year,” Ayol said. “The way were playing, I felt like we had a chance to win the whole national tournament.”

Ayol said he can play multiple positions, but prefers to play the role of small forward/big guard.

“My style of play is to attack the basket and use my body to get to the rim,” he said. “I like to take guys off the dribble, but I really worked on getting my shot better this year and I think that makes it harder for people to guard me.”

Western Wyoming head coach Steven Soza said: “He is an athletic wing who can score in a variety of ways.  During his freshmen year, we asked him to play underneath the basket to force mismatches, which he did and had considerable amount of success.  During the spring of his freshmen year we sought out post players, thus allowing us to move him out the perimeter, his natural position.”

Photo courtesy Manel Ayol

Ayol added that he watched several Hawai’i games on television, and understands that defensive presence might be his path to immediate playing time.

“I feel like I can come in and be aggressive on both ends,” he said. “But it starts on defense. I try to always stay active on defense. That’s what gets me going.”

Ayol said Hawai’i assistant coach Chris Gerlufsen started recruiting him earlier this season. It helped that Junior Madut was already on the Hawai’i roster. Ayol and Madut played basketball with and against each other in Australia. Like Ayol, Madut was born in Sudan and raised in Australia.

“I built a really good relationship with Coach G and Coach Ganot, and they were the ones who gave me a good feel for Hawai’i,” Ayol said. “And then having a friend like Junior there to explain everything even more gave me a good understanding of what it’s like.”

Ayol said the other programs recruiting him included Albany, Eastern Michigan, Lamar and UNC Wilmington.

The remaining issue for Ayol – and the rest of the nation – is the unforeseeable future due to the global pandemic. He is not even sure if or when he will be allowed to sign a National Letter of Intent with Hawai’i due to the fallout from NCAA schedule cancellations.

In the more immediate future, Western Wyoming Community College is expected to clear its campus at the end of this month. Ayol said he will likely have to return to his parents’ home in Australia.

“I can’t really work out here right now, but if I go home I have trainers to help me with places I can go to train,” he said.

When he is allowed to travel to Hawai’i, he would like to begin the process of majoring in political science at UH-Manoa.

“Manel exemplifies the term student-athlete,” Soza said. “He has been instrumental in bringing national attention back to Western Wyoming Community College both academically and athletically.  Watching his drive, commitment and growth the past two years has been phenomenal. We are excited to see him take his game to the next level at the University of Hawai’i, especially when he will be able to work with a weight coach on the daily basis. His best basketball is ahead of him.”

Ayol said he speaks three languages – English, Dinka and Arabic – and took several courses in Italian. He said his first name can mean “large snake” in his tribal language, and his last name is a traditional family name in Sudan.

“I just hope everything works out,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to Hawai’i.”

2 Comments

  1. Welcome Manel !

    #1 Get HAWAI’I / USA Past COVID-19…
    NOT Likely by August if it’s bouncing / cycling between Northern / Southern Hemispheres;
    AUSSIE, US, Sudan… Hope, Social Distance, Pray, MED Breakthrough…?

    UH Back in Session by August OR Delayed Season?…

    Trusting that Gerlufsen and Ganot See Athleticism, Ability to Learn, Assimilate & Apply…Great Work Ethic because only got two or three years… to Maximize Manuel’s Growth & Payoff…(think Eddie) because (yellow flag) the other schools / coaches recruiting are NOT at Any Level We Aspire to be headed…

    I hope Madut works out as well…

    Best of the Best … Wishes that this all works out…

    Stay Safe, Stay Healthy… Help Out…

  2. Way to go coach Gerlufsen! Hawaii needs players to take it strong to the hole and finish. This will
    help break down defenses. Solid shooter and likes playing D? We’ll take him! Welcome to Hawaii!

    Hope the virus is contained by next season and they find a cure!

    Go Bows!

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