Friday, October 9, 2015         


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Latvian center to stand tall for team; new coach to recruit in Asia

By Brian McInnis


The Hawaii men's basketball team just got some significant height for the significant future.

Davis (pronounced Da-VEES) Rozitis of Latvia, a 7-foot sophomore center, has pledged to transfer and play for the Rainbow Warriors and head coach Gib Arnold, who helped recruit him to USC for 2009-10 when Arnold was an assistant there.

Rozitis must sit out UH games in the upcoming 2010-11 season per NCAA Division I transfer rules, but represents the final scholarship Arnold had available to hand out. After redshirting, he will have three years to play three seasons.

Arnold cannot comment on Rozitis until his paperwork is completed. Rozitis was officially released by USC, but is at home in Latvia and could not immediately be reached.

The Latvian played sparingly as a freshman behind a skilled Trojans front line. At 215 pounds, Rozitis is lean, but has an outside game—his range extends out to the 3-point line—to help make up for the girth he gives up in the post.

He posted two points and seven rebounds in 28 total minutes in eight games last year.

He was a difference-maker, however, in high school in Cesis, Latvia, averaging 15.0 points and 9.5 rebounds, and making 77.5 percent of his free throws.

Rozitis also has played for the Latvian junior national team, averaging 2.5 points in eight games.

Former USC forward Leonard Washington was previously considered a candidate to follow Arnold to Hawaii, but he recently elected to go to Wyoming.

Akana joins, to tap Asia

After a wait that stretched over the summer—and nearly an additional week for paperwork reasons—Brandyn Akana is officially part of the UH coaching staff.

The former Brigham Young-Hawaii player and assistant coach brings an extensive recruiting base in Asia to complement the far-flung areas like Brazil and Australia already targeted by Arnold and his assistants.

"Brandyn is a perfect fit to complete our staff," Arnold said. "He is a very talented young coach and brings with him a great work ethic. He has a great love for Hawaii and a passion for basketball, two traits that are extremely important to me. He's also the premier recruiter in Asia. His contacts and coaching experience will be very helpful as we begin to expand our recruiting efforts there."

He will travel to Asia to recruit starting after next season.

Akana, a Molokai native and Molokai High graduate, played collegiately at BYUH, then became an assistant to Ken Wagner there for the past nine seasons. He was the Seasiders' lead recruiter, and helped BYUH advance to the final 16 teams in the NCAA II tournament each of the past three seasons.

The 36-year-old sees going to UH as the next step in his coaching career and a chance to build on the Akana hoops legacy started by his older brother, Jarinn, who played in the early 1990s.

"I remember as a young kid coming to his games (at the Blaisdell) and being on campus," Akana said, who added that Jarinn was supportive of his move. "I'm very familiar with the background of University of Hawaii men's basketball. My family's been really close to the program. This is really exciting. ... It's kind of like coming home, coming back to what you remember as a young kid, hanging around.

"I look to contribute, and also to learn."

Akana said Arnold reached out to him shortly after Arnold was hired as a new UH coach in March. The two had some familiarity from when Arnold coached at the College of Southern Idaho.

"I think he wanted somebody with Hawaii ties, who has a passion for the state of Hawaii and a passion for the game of basketball, and somebody young," Akana said.

As for the long stretch from when his name was linked to Arnold in the spring until his hire yesterday, Akana said there were things he needed to finish up at BYUH, followed by some travel.

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