Ex-football player suits up for UH basketball team
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
At this rate, basketball and football players will soon become interchangeable at the University of Hawai'i.
Tui Avaava, who transferred to UH in hopes of playing football, is instead trying out for the UH men's basketball team this week.
"Basketball is my favorite sport," said Avaava, who is 6 feet 3 and 207 pounds. "I came here for football, but that was put on hold. So I figured why not play basketball?"
Avaava was a multi-sport athlete at Federal Way High in Washington. He redshirted as a defensive back for the Washington State football team last year.
Because he has several relatives in Hawai'i his father grew up in Kalihi Avaava decided to transfer to UH in August.
He was not allowed to suit up for the Warriors because he had to wait for his transcripts to pass the NCAA clearinghouse.
He has since been cleared to play for the UH basketball team, but must sit out this season because of transfer rules. He will be allowed to practice with the team all season.
Avaava's presence on the basketball court is a reversal of sorts. Last spring, basketball players Tony Akpan and Ikaika Alama-Francis made the football team.
UH head coach Riley Wallace said he expects Akpan to rejoin the basketball team after the football season, but was not sure about Alama-Francis' status.
Avaava is one of three walk-on players with the team this season. The other two are Hawai'i high school graduates: Chris Akana from Kamehameha and Garland Gantt III from Leilehua.
Akana played for Kamehameha's Division II basketball team as a senior in 2000. Since then, he has been a self-described "bum."
"I play (pick-up) basketball all the time, so my friends were ragging on me, saying I should try out for the team," he said. "I'm glad I got this opportunity and I'm going to work hard every day."
At 5-6, Akana has the stature to become a new fan favorite.
Gantt was a second team All-O'ahu Interscholastic Association selection as a senior at Leilehua in 2001. He redshirted as a freshman at Chaminade, then transferred to UH last year.
"I'll be happy sitting on the bench cheering," said Gantt, who is 6-1. "Just to be wearing this (practice) jersey is fine. All I wanted was a chance to be on the team."
Haim's hurting: Senior center Haim Shimonovich sat out of yesterday's practice with an injury to his right Achilles.
He said he does not think the injury is serious, but is scheduled to see a doctor today.
"If there was a game today, I would play," he said.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com or 535-8101.