Tuesday, November 24, 2015         


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As commits fall through, maybe UH's should, too

By Ferd Lewis


In Manoa they wait anxiously and with fingers crossed to see if basketball recruits Gerry Blakes and Dillon Biggs will come up with the requisite academic records to be eligible to play for the University of Hawaii this season.

And somewhere on the vast upper campus, we are told, sits an almost-ready-to-finally-be-executed contract for men's basketball coach Gib Arnold.

One thing supposedly has little to do with another.

But maybe it should.

If either Blakes or Biggs fails to qualify for entry into UH this fall semester, that would mark the third high-profile recruit unable to gain admission from this class. With high school power forward Ronnie Stevens and junior college swingman DeShawn Mitchell — the two most highly touted recruits — already having been denied, three out of six not making the grade would be a significant disappointment. While you hesitate to ponder the possibility, losing four of six would be a major setback.

Either one of those scenarios coming to pass should give UH pause to consider whether now is really the right time to ante up a five-year contract to Arnold until there is more of a demonstrated track record on his recruiting for the Rainbow Warriors.

Arnold came to UH for a three-year deal worth $240,000 per year, and the remarkable 19-13 finish in his inaugural season should earn him a better deal. We're told UH initially offered a 10 percent raise and an extra year. Somewhere along the line five years reportedly became the operative length.

That's a considerable leap for someone who has never previously been a head coach at the Division I level, heading into only his second year at UH. Especially since once upon a not-so-distant time, five-year deals were mostly the province of coaches with demonstrated track records of success at UH or high profile hires such as June Jones.

Too often UH has learned the hard way when it has deviated from the policy. Witness the Jim Bolla episode.

The belief is that Arnold, a tireless recruiter, will produce some strong classes. But with two in (Hauns Brereton and Shaquille Stokes), two that couldn't make it (Mitchell and Stevens) and two up in the air (Blakes and Biggs), the jury is still out on this year's class.

Because of the late start, you cut Arnold some slack for last year's class from which two members (Anthony Salter and Jordan Coleman) quit in midseason and one (Bo Barnes) transferred afterward.

We knew UH was going to have to take some chances in recruiting to upgrade its talent levels. And Mitchell, if he really had as low a grade-point average in his final semester in junior college as rumors allege, was definitely a rolling of the dice, if not a length-of-the-court prayer shot.

But to lose half — or more — of this year's class, should it shake out that way, would be a sizeable setback. If it comes to that, UH should think twice about awarding a five-year commitment just now.

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