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UH hoops lands 6-10 Texas grad transfer with Hawaii ties

  • Associated Press
                                Texas forward Kamaka Hepa, right, tried to block a shot by Kansas State forward Levi Stockard III during a game in Manhattan, Kansas, on Feb. 22, 2020.

    Associated Press

    Texas forward Kamaka Hepa, right, tried to block a shot by Kansas State forward Levi Stockard III during a game in Manhattan, Kansas, on Feb. 22, 2020.

A former 4-star player is aligning with the University of Hawaii basketball team.

Kamaka Hepa, who is 6 feet 10 and 220 pounds, announced he is joining the Rainbow Warriors as a graduate transfer from the University of Texas. He will sign a scholarship agreement, earn a degree at the end of this semester, and have two seasons of UH eligibility.

As a high school senior, Hepa was rated by Rivals as the nation’s 47th-best basketball prospect. Recruiting service 247Sports gave him a 4-star rating.

Hepa played in 60 games — 12 starts — in three years for the Longhorns, who finished ninth in the Associated Press’ regular-season poll. This year, Hepa’s best game was scoring 15 points against Kansas State. Hepa is envisioned filling the same role as former ’Bow Stefan Jankovic, a 6-11 stretch five who averaged 15.6 points on 54.3% shooting (39.3% on 3s) and 6.6 reb0unds as a junior in 2015-16.

“I can’t wait to get out there and be with my teammates and really start getting to work,” Hepa said in a telephone interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “It’s a place I’m very connected to. I’m excited to be headed there, and to be playing basketball with them. I’m really excited.”

Hepa’s father was born and reared on Kauai. Hepa said he has visited relatives on Kauai and Maui several times.

Hepa was born in Utqiagvik, Alaska, a town previously known as Barrow. Utquiagvik is the most northern point in the country. “During the winter, we got 24-hour darkness,” Hepa said. “In the summer, it was bright all the time. Living in a small town was interesting, but a really good experience.”

Indoor sports were popular, and Hepa, his siblings and their cousins gravitated toward basketball. After his sophomore year, Hepa moved to Portland, where he developed into a nationally acclaimed player at Jefferson High.

Hepa received scholarship offers from Gonzaga, Oregon State, Washington, USC, Arizona, Stanford, Oregon, Utah, Miami and Nebraska before committing to Texas.

Hepa said he enjoyed his experience at Texas, but the recent coaching change and the opportunity to further develop elsewhere led to his decision to enter the NCAA’s transfer portal. Hepa said he was impressed with the UH coaches and their program.

“I think they did a good job of building a genuine relationship with me,” Hepa said of the UH coaches.

Hepa also said he likes the talent of UH’s 2021-22 team. “I think it’ll be a wonderful opportunity for us to really be able to work and get better and work toward making the NCAA Tournament,” Hepa said. “I think that’s a real possibility. That was another thing that really factored into my decision.”

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