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Hawaii’s Fotu ruled ineligible

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All-conference forward Isaac Fotu is ineligible to play in NCAA games as the 2014-15 season opener rapidly approaches, acting Hawaii men’s basketball coach Benjy Taylor said Wednesday afternoon.

Taylor, speaking at a press conference at the Stan Sheriff Center, spoke about the embattled program in the wake of former coach Gib Arnold’s firing on Tuesday.

Most notably, Fotu’s status was revealed. His eligible status is believed to have been revoked as a result of improper benefits for a student-athlete.

“That’s for the investigation. As of now, he’s ineligible,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the team is in the process of petitioning for the junior’s reinstatement.

Fotu earned Big West Co-Freshman of the Year honors in 2012-13 and was a Big West first-team selection in 2013-14 after averaging 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He was recently named to the Big West 2014-15 preseason all-conference team.

UH plays an exhibition Nov. 6 vs. Hawaii Pacific University and its season opener is Nov. 14 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Taylor also said “the vultures are circling” in regard to other programs trying to convince UH players to transfer out.

The acting coach said two players have spoken up about wavering in their commitment to the team.

“This is truly a glass house right now … we can still salvage something out of this,” Taylor said.

Players Garrett Nevels and Aaron Valdes both said they were in shock in the wake of Arnold’s dismissal, but are optimistic about being able to rally the team.

“We play for each other,” Nevels said. “It’s going to be fun and we’re going to win games. I’m for that. … We’re going to go out and win games, that’s all we can control.”

The players met with Arnold for about 20 minutes Tuesday after the announcement.

“Of course it got emotional,” Nevels said. “You’d get emotional if you got fired.”

Nevels was asked how he’d contribute to team leadership as the Rainbow Warriors’ lone senior, with the team down to two full-time coaches in Taylor and Senque Carey.

“With one coach, people might want to slack off. I’m not letting any of that fly,” Nevels said.

Valdes said: “Whether it’s for Gib or Benjy, we gotta play. … We know we trust (Taylor), we know he has good intentions for us.”

The Rainbow Warriors are holding an open practice Wednesday evening.

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