POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 10, 2010
Assistant coach Brandyn Akana now has someone he can see eye-to-eye with at University of Hawaii basketball practice. Let's just put it this way: Akana and new guard Miah Ostrowski are short enough to play in 5-10 and under leagues. Akana averaged 16 points a game as a senior at Brigham Young-Hawaii, so he knows first-hand that height is just one aspect of basketball.
"When I heard Miah was going to play, I thought, 'Man, he's going to help us ... this year,' " Akana said after yesterday's practice, Ostrowski's second with the Rainbow Warriors.
"He's very crafty with the ball and he's got all the shots, mid-range, long, floaters. We know he'll be tough, he's a football player. There are still a lot of things you can do at that size. Offensively, he'll be fine."
Defensively, Ostrowski, listed at 5-9, will almost always be significantly shorter than the man he's guarding. The question is if his quickness and athleticism can make up for it -- and this would be more of a problem if he were a center rather than a point guard.
Ostrowski could become the first former local high school star since Bobby Nash three years ago to have a spot in the playing rotation, which could help sell some tickets. Or, he could at least be a valuable practice player.
THE TIMING FINALLY worked out for the hoops team and Ostrowski, who is a slotback in the sport that pays his scholarship check. It's fortuitous for first-year head coach Gib Arnold, who recently lost point guard Anthony Salter and wing Jordan Coleman to playing time dissatisfaction.
Ostrowski won't play in any games until after New Year's and the start of the WAC season. But he's waited this long (Ostrowski hasn't competed in serious basketball since graduating from high school in 2007), so a few more weeks won't hurt.
"The first time I saw Miah in person was two days ago," Arnold said yesterday, of his fellow Punahou graduate. "Our families share a lot of the same friends, so a lot of people talked to me about him.
"We're holding him out of anything real physical until after the (Hawaii Bowl). The last thing we want is for him to hurt his ankle or something and miss the bowl game."
Basketball was his first love coming out of high school, and June Jones recruited him with the promise that he could play both sports.
"That was my plan," Ostrowski said. "But with the coaching change, that made things different because Coach Jones wasn't there anymore. I wanted to show that I had loyalty."
Arnold got the blessing of current football coach Greg McMackin, talking to him before the season and again recently about the possibility of Ostrowski joining the basketball team.
"Coach Mack was great," Arnold said. "I made it very clear. I said, 'You trump us. You need him for a workout or anything, let us know.'"
THIS IS a key offseason for Ostrowski, the football player. Starters Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares and the No. 2 slotbacks are all done with their eligibility after the bowl game. Ostrowski, a junior in football next season, is expected to climb to the top of the depth chart heading into spring practice.
He said playing basketball won't detract from his football preparation, and he discussed it with offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich and receivers coach Mouse Davis before making the commitment.
"It'll keep me away from any side distractions," Ostrowski said. "There's more running here than on the football field."
And, as Arnold joked, "We don't take 30 seconds off between plays."