Hawaii’s star forward Isaac Fotu announced on Monday that he would be leaving the program and entering the NBA Draft.
Fotu averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 boards as a sophomore for the Rainbow Warriors. He was named to the preseason all-Big West team. But he also got caught up in the issues that cost head coach Gib Arnold his job and, last week, was ruled ineligible for the 2014-2015 season.
The native New Zealander thus decided that he would be better off by heading off to the professional ranks than to continue his education while sitting out.
The decision is not really a surprise, but it is a blow to the Hawaii program.
Here is his statement in full, via the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
After much thought and discussions with my family, I have decided to forgo my last 2 years at UH, and pursue a professional basketball career.
This was not an easy decision. I came to Hawaii to play for coach Gib and coach Akana, both were instrumental in me growing as both a person and basketball player. I believe this was going to (be the) best season yet.
I’ve turned down opportunities to (turn) pro every summer because returning to Hawaii was an easy decision, but now, with the program headed in a different direction, I believe it’s time to chase the professional basketball dream, and hopefully help support my family.
In regards to my ineligibility announced last week, which by the way had no bearing on my decision, I have hired an attorney to help clear my name, if and / or when any accusations are released by the NCAA.
I thank all my teammates (brothers) at UH, and mostly the fans of Rainbow Warrior basketball. The people of Hawaii have welcomed me since the day I arrived, and all that aloha made my stay enjoyable. I enjoyed every minute I got to represent the University of Hawaii and I will look back at many wonderful memories.
Aloha ‘oe, until we meet again!
It’s bad enough when a program has to fire its head coach in late-October, just a couple weeks before the start of the season as Hawaii did earlier this week. Now add to this the fact that the Rainbow Warriors’ best player has been declared ineligible by the NCAA, and what you have are the makings of what could be a very tough season for interim head coach Benjy Taylor.
Earlier this week junior forward Isaac Fotu, an All-Big West selection last season and a preseason All-Big West choice heading into the 2014-15 season, was declared ineligible as part of the NCAA’s investigation into the program for allegedly receiving impermissible benefits. Head coach Gib Arnold and assistant Brandyn Akana were fired earlier this week in what was viewed as a preemptive strike by the school in response to the NCAA investigation.
Fotu averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and with fellow All-Big West forward Christian Standhardinger out of eligibility he was expected to lead the way for Hawaii. Now all Fotu can do is practice while holding out hope that the appeal for reinstatement is granted.
And according to KHON2, Fotu isn’t the only concern from a player standpoint as some have been approached by other schools hoping to take advantage of the tumult within the Hawaii program.
Taylor confirmed that several players on the team were contacted by other programs in an attempt to capitalize on the ongoing turmoil.
“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I’m going to be the head coach. I know I’m the acting head coach but I don’t know what that means, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” Taylor said. “The people of Hawaii deserve a really, really good product. This is a really good team. This is a good group of guys. It takes time to build a team, build a program and that’s what we’ve been doing. This is our fifth year and we feel like this is it. This is our year.”
With the NCAA having wrapped up its investigation, the next step for Hawaii is to receive a notice of allegations in the near future. Add to this the fact that athletic director Ben Jay is on medical leave, and it’s anything but smooth sailing at Hawaii.
New Zealand hasn’t exactly had the most impressive performance at the 2014 FIBA World Cup — they picked up their first win of the event on Wednesday by beating Ukraine 73-61 — but they have been the team that college basketball fans have paid the most attention to.
Two of the five collegians that made a roster for the World Cup play for the Tall Blacks, and Hawaii star Isaac Fotu may be the best of the bunch right now. He averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 boards last season, and has put together a pretty impressive performance at the World Cup. In Wednesday’s win, he finished with 10 points and 10 boards.
His head coach at Hawaii, Gib Arnold, is in Bilbao, Spain, and has raved about Fotu’s play.
”He’s a perfect fit for Hawaii and we couldn’t ask for a better kid from New Zealand,” Arnold told Fairfax Media. ”He’s an absolute king of the island — they love him. He’s on all the billboards, all the posters, people wear his jerseys. We are a pretty big city, one of the biggest in America, with no pro team. So he’s the Kobe Bryant, the Kevin Durant of Hawaii.”
Arnold has to be ecstatic with that he’s seen thus far from Fotu, who thinks that this tournament will be a big step for him going forward.
”It’s been great for my game and I’ve learnt a lot just playing against older, more experienced guys,” he told Fairfax Media. ”It will be a good transition going back for my junior year, and I’m definitely going to be better for it.”
Tai Webster, a rising sophomore guard for Nebraska, finished with eight points, seven boards and three assists for the Kiwis while Kansas freshman Svi Mykhailiuk played just three minutes before getting pulled.