The Hawaii men’s basketball team was picked fifth among nine teams in the 2014-15 Big West Conference preseason poll announced Thursday morning.
UH junior forward Isaac Fotu was named to the six-member preseason all-conference team.
Defending regular-season champion UC Irvine received 20 of 26 possible first-place votes and 221 points as the preseason favorite. The Anteaters, featuring four returning starters, were followed by UC Santa Barbara (195 points) and reigning Big West Player of the Year Alan Williams, then Long Beach State (180) and Cal State Northridge (165).
UCSB received two first-place votes, LBSU had three and CSUN one.
Hawaii, with two returning starters in Fotu and shooting guard Garrett Nevels, received 119 points and no first-place votes. The Rainbow Warriors were followed by last season’s Big West tournament champion Cal Poly (109), then UC Davis (79), Cal State Fullerton (64) and UC Riverside (38).
In a statement supplied by UH, coach Gib Arnold said: “With six teams returning four or more starters laden with seniors, and with us returning two starters with only one senior (Nevels), I understand the poll. I do, however believe the two returning starters we have in Garrett and Isaac are two of the best players in the conference. We had our best recruiting class in five years and we have a number of talented and athletic young returning players ready to make an impact. I believe we have the makings of a very exciting and special team. Our goal is to exceed expectations and bring a Big West championship home to Hawaii where it belongs.”
Besides Fotu, the rest of the preseason all-conference team was UCSB center Williams, LBSU point guard Mike Caffey, Davis shooting guard Corey Hawkins, Northridge forward Stephen Maxwell and Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye.
Arnold said of Fotu in the UH statement: “It’s a much deserved all-conference selection. He is a great kid, great student, and great player. We couldn’t ask for a better representative for the University of Hawaii. I believe he is not only the best player in the conference but one of the best in the nation.”
UH finished last season in fourth place in the Big West at 9-7 and 20-11 overall.