POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Mar 24, 2011
After a whirlwind first year as head coach at the University of Hawaii, a leisurely, kick-back European vacation would probably look pretty good to Gib Arnold right about now.
And that idyllic thought undoubtedly crosses his mind this week as the scenery of France and Germany does a fast break past his train and plane windows.
Arnold is on the continent today, but this is hardly a Gib-Does-Europe travelogue. It is, we are told, France, Germany, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia in six days the way you’ll never see Anthony Bourdain attempt it on the Travel Channel.
Eleven years after he last knocked on doors in Europe as a German-speaking missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Arnold is back. This time, scholarships in hand and aloha shirts in the suitcase, he is proselytizing on behalf of the Rainbow Warriors.
He is beating the bushes in the Balkans, buttonholing prospects in Bavaria and working the shores of the Adriatic and elsewhere for prospective point guards, power forwards and the like for the near and future terms.
You could say he’s taking the long way from Honolulu to next week’s NCAA Final Four. After all, if you have to fly all the way to Houston, what’s a few more time zones and a stopover in, say, Podgorica, Montenegro?
Perhaps even a home visit to the family of Andrej Pajovic, a highly touted point guard, who is attending a preparatory school in Massachusetts. Europeanprospects.com says UH is among a handful of schools in the hunt for the services of the 6-foot, 1-inch player in advance of the April 13 to May 18 national letter of intent signing period.
Arnold recruited another Montenegrin, center Nikola Vucevic, to USC as a Trojans assistant, so, presumably, he knows the area and a good place to grab a hot bowl of japraci on the run.
For the ’Bows to be successful in Arnold’s tenure, they are going to have to be a good road team in recruiting, too, whether it be a highway in the former Yugoslavia or a gravel path somewhere in South America. They’re going to have to expand their pool of recruits, meaning being good at recruiting passports in hand.
History tells us some of the best years in UH’s conference history came when the ’Bows were able to augment their mainland and local recruiting with quality international players. Witness what Predrag Savovic, Mindaugas Burneika, Carl English, Phil Martin, Nerijus Puida and Haim Shimonovich, among others, meant.
That connection ebbed and flowed with the changes in NCAA rules regarding international players and in the comings and goings of assistant coaches.
The worldwide approach was one of the planks of Arnold’s speech to get the UH job, selling his belief in and experience at international recruiting. The addition of assistant Walter Roese, a coach of the Brazilian junior national team, and director of operations Scott Fisher, a former coach and player in Australia, is meant to further address the international role.
Vander Joaquim, a center from Angola via the College of Eastern Utah, has been the most popular and productive example to date.
Hopefully, he is just the beginning.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.