Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Munoz ‘super grateful’ for another senior season

It may seem like a game of Crazy 8, or an Eighth Wonder: By the time Juan Munoz completes the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball season next March, his college career will span twice as long as the traditional four-year path.

WarriorInsider.com file photo courtesy Brandon Flores

But that’s all fine and dandy for Munoz and the Warriors’ players and coaches, and especially for the UH fans who only got a quick-but-spectacular glimpse of the multi-skilled 6-foot guard during his previous two years with the program.

The NCAA granted Munoz a highly unusual eighth year of eligibility on Thursday, approving a special waiver after he missed his second straight season due to injury, this one a ruptured Achilles tendon. 

“I love basketball too much to give it up now,” said Munoz, who played three seasons in five years at Longwood University in North Carolina before transferring to Hawai’i in 2021 for his COVID “bonus” year, which he ended up sitting out due to a leg injury. “I felt like I still have something in the tank, something left to show and give to this program, on and off the court. I think that’s what motivated me to try to come back and play this upcoming year. I’m just super grateful, I haven’t really stopped smiling since yesterday when they told me about my waiver and me getting to play.”

UH coach Eran Ganot, who is on a Mainland recruiting trip, was smiling from across the ocean.”This is a great day for Juan, his family and the entire Rainbow Warrior Basketball program,” Ganot said. “It’s a testament to his conviction, perseverance and incredible attitude. He’s eight months into his rehab and he’s been working his tail off. We couldn’t be more happy for Juan and this opportunity for him to continue to play the game he loves.” 

In his only UH “game” appearance — an exhibition against Hawai’i-Hilo last November 3rd —  Munoz scored 13 of his 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, and also dazzled the crowd with some nifty ball-handling and quick drives to the basket. 

“He was tremendous,” Ganot said after that game. “To see what he is capable of … he is a player. He’s a great shooter, he’s got a great feel, he studies the film, he loves the game, he’s got good handles, he’s tough on ball screen. And one of the more underrated things about him is his ability to anticipate, he thinks ahead. And he’s a gamer. He’s fun to watch, he’s fun to play with, he’s fun to be around. We think the world of him.”

Despite his limited court time, Munoz was considered a valuable member of the Warriors the past two years and served to inspire teammates and coaches alike. Munoz said that mutual appreciation convinced him to apply for the NCAA waiver, after discussing the situation with Ganot and his staff.  

“It was big, honestly, I would just have talks with the guys, and they would always talk about ‘If you come back next year, we could do this, and that,’ ” Munoz said. “It was just an amazing feeling knowing that they wanted me to come back, and it was just something (where) I felt I couldn’t let them down. I’m just really happy with them, and the love and support that they’ve given me throughout these trials and tribulations … I just want to pay them back in full for that.”   

Munoz said he estimates himself to be “around 75 or 80 percent” toward his maximum healthy ability, and will be joining the Warriors on their goodwill tour of Japan from Aug. 8-19. Whether he plays in the three scheduled exhibition games there will depend on his progress between now and then.

“It’s a different process for me, just because I haven’t been through an injury like this before,” said Munoz, who suffered knee injuries in the past. “But someone that I kind of modeled my progress after is Klay Thompson, because he went through the same path that I’m going through right now. In my timeline, I’ve been working every day just to get better, and right now I feel better than I did yesterday. Hopefully I can continue that trend.”   

Munoz’s waiver now gives UH nine returnees — including three starters — from a team that went 22-11 this past season.

“What I’m going to add is my shooting and playmaking ability,” Munoz said. “That’s something I’m looking forward to.”

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