Manel Ayol, a versatile junior-college player, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he has accepted a scholarship from the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team.
Ayol, who recently completed his sophomore season at Western Wyoming College, said he will sign a letter of intent with the Rainbow Warriors. The NCAA’s signing period for basketball is set to begin on April 15, although that starting date might change as schedules are being reconfigured because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Ayol said he is firm in his decision based on largely on the Rainbow Warriors’ program and the relationship he developed with the coaching staff. Ayol and UH guard Junior Madut are close friends who were both born in South Sudan and grew up in Australia.
“We go way back,” Ayol said of Madut. “I’ve known him for eight years or so.”
On choosing UH, Ayol said, “I’m happy with my decision. I’m confident with it. I can’t wait (to sign).”
Ayol, who is 6 feet 7, can play all five positions, although he said he most comfortable on the perimeter. He is skilled on drives, step-back jumpers, and on shots launched from behind the arc (39.3% on 3s).
Ayol was named the Region IX Player of the Year after averaging 16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists this past season. The Mustangs were 30-4 this past season in winning the Region IX title. They qualified for the 16-team NJCAA national tournament, which was canceled because of the pandemic concerns.
Ayol said unrest in South Sudan led his family to relocate to Australia when he was 5 years old. He began playing basketball extensively in 2012 when it was suggested he was better suited for that sport than soccer. He competed on a club team in Melbourne through 2015, when he moved to Denver for the final two years of high school.
Ayol will be the third member of the Warriors’ 2020 recruiting class.
Beon Ja Riley, a 6-6 guard from San Diego, signed with UH the past November. Biwali Bayles, a 6-1 point guard from Australia, said he will will put his commitment in writing on the first day of the signing period for basketball.