'Bows big on recruiting
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
It's true, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team will move at a faster pace next season.
The proof came yesterday, when new head coach Gib Arnold announced the official signings of three new recruits — Vander Joaquim, Josten Thomas and Trevor Wiseman.
"Considering we had about three weeks to put this together, I'm real excited about this group," Arnold said. "We were able to cover a lot of ground very quickly."
Arnold was named head coach of the Rainbow Warriors on March 20. Since then, he made two separate trips to the western United States to visit with recruits.
"The fact that I was able to get the job when I did was very beneficial," Arnold said. "If I were to get the job now, we wouldn't have been able to get any of these guys."
It helped that Arnold was previously an assistant coach at USC, and had already established ties with all three of the recruits.
"If I were still at USC, I would have been after all of them," he said. "Having established that kind of relationship with these guys early helped, I think."
The three recruits are similar in that each can play various positions.
"I feel good about this group because they obviously give us size," Arnold said. "But even better, they give us versatility. I envision using each of these guys at a number of positions."
• Joaquim is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound post player out of College of Eastern Utah. He is originally from Angola, but has been in the United States since 2007.
He averaged 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a freshman at Eastern Utah last season, and led the team with 31 blocked shots.
"Vander's got very good size — very good length," Arnold said. "He can score in the low post, but can also shoot the trailing 3, which means you have to guard him everywhere."
Joaquim made 11 3-pointers last season, and shot .367 from 3-point range.
"We want to continue to develop that aspect of his game," Arnold said. "If he can be a legitimate 3-point threat, that allows us to do a lot of different things."
Arnold was quick to credit new associate coach Walter Roese for the signing of Joaquim.
Roese was an assistant coach at Nebraska the past two seasons, and had previously secured a commitment from Joaquim to attend Nebraska.
When Roese was hired as the associate coach at Hawai'i, he said he informed Joaquim of the change.
"I didn't put any pressure on him," Roese said. "I just told him I was going to Hawai'i, and it was up to him what he wanted to do. He decided he wanted to come to Hawai'i, too."
Roese is a coach in Brazil's junior national basketball program, so he first noticed Joaquim several years ago at an international tournament, when Joaquim was playing for Angola.
"I saw him when he was a young kid, and I liked his size and how hard he worked," Roese said. "And we just stayed in touch over the years."
Roese said Joaquim "still has a lot of room for improvement," but will have three years to do that at Hawai'i.
Joaquim must still earn his associate's degree from Eastern Utah to become eligible at Hawai'i. He is expected to earn that degree this summer.
• Thomas is a 6-7, 225-pound guard/forward at College of Southern Idaho. He is originally from Washington, D.C., and was once one of the top-rated high school recruits in the country.
He averaged 15.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a freshman last season, leading the team in both categories.
"Josten is the one guy whose physical body right now is what you're supposed to look like in this game," Arnold said. "He's got great strength and great athleticism."
Thomas had 10 double-doubles last season, and said he was also being recruited by Arizona, West Virginia and Southern Mississippi.
Even more impressive is his high school basketball resume. As a senior at God's Academy in Texas, Thomas averaged 32.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, and was rated as one of the top 30 players in the nation by ESPN.
Arnold said he envisions Thomas playing three or four positions at Hawai'i to create mismatches for opponents.
"He can get up and down the floor and cover a lot of ground offensively and defensively," Arnold said. "He's got that strength to battle in the post, but he's also good enough to play on the perimeter, where he can either shoot it or get past bigger guys."
Arnold said Thomas is the most likely of the three new recruits to become an immediate contributor.
"With his physical body and maturity as a player, he's the type that can come in and play right away," Arnold said. "And I think he could play right away at a lot of places."
Like Joaquim, Thomas must receive his associate's degree from Southern Idaho to become eligible at Hawai'i. He is on pace to earn his degree this summer, and would then have three seasons of eligibility at UH.
• Wiseman is a 6-8, 220-pound guard/forward at Golden Valley High in Santa Clarita, Calif. He averaged 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists during his recently-completed senior season.
He was the team's primary point guard, but also played virtually every other position.
"He literally jumped ball, and then brought the ball up the floor," Arnold said. "I don't see him playing a lot of point guard for us, but I really like that he can do all those things. We'll use him a lot of different ways."
Arnold described Wiseman as "a sleeper" because he was not heavily recruited.
"I think he was one of the best available players in southern California at this time of the year," Arnold said. "He was under the radar. He'll have a learning curve he'll have to go through, but all freshmen do."
Joaquim, Thomas and Wiseman all signed with Hawai'i during the "regular" signing period, which runs from April 14 to May 19.
Jordan Coleman, a 6-4 guard at Calabasas High in California, signed with the 'Bows during the "early" signing period in November. Coleman signed when Bob Nash was still the Hawai'i head coach, but Arnold said he will honor the scholarship.
Arnold's recruiting is still ongoing.
Two recruits are visiting Hawai'i this weekend: Bo Barnes, a 6-4 shooting guard at Westwind Prep Academy in Arizona, and Keith Shamburger, a 6-foot point guard at Serra High in California.
"These first three we signed are all bigs, so our focus now is on guards," Arnold said. "But I've said all along, we want to get versatile players who can help us in different ways."