In pledging to join the University of Hawaii men’s basketball program, Kamaka Hepa is hoping to rediscover his past.
Hepa, who originally hails from Alaska, graduated from Jefferson High School in Portland, Ore., where he was a consensus four-star recruit as a member of the 2018 class. In the 2021-2022 season, he will become the highest rated player to ever suit up for UH in the in the college recruiting website era.
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In his three seasons at Texas, Hepa was never able to gain a consistent role, averaging 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game. Because the NCAA granted its student-athletes an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hepa will still be considered a junior this fall and will have two seasons to play for Hawaii. Despite the shiny four-star rating, recruiting rankings won’t be a factor as he starts a new chapter in Manoa.
“Although that stuff is cool to hear about and whatnot, it’s not necessarily something I put a lot of weight to because I feel like I’m a basketball player and I really like to keep it at that,” Hepa told KHON2’s Rob DeMello. “The accolades that I brought in and what I did in high school was cool and stuff but it’s not necessarily something that I hold a lot of weight to.”
Hepa has a diverse background and is of Hawaiian, Filipino, Inupiat and Caucasian descent. Along with his friend and current Rainbow Warrior wing Samuta Avea, Hepa hopes to represent the islands in a way he wasn’t able to in a Longhorns jersey.
“It’s hard to take in. It’s just giving me goosebumps thinking about it right now and I’m very excited to get out there as soon as possible and just kind of begin working and laying the foundation for what we want to do and just knowing that we have the whole state of Hawaii behind us and that we’re literally connected to the state of Hawaii by our blood I think is a really special thing and I think it’s really gonna help us just in what we want to achieve as a program,” Hepa said.
Hepa’s commitment to Hawaii has sparked hope among a fanbase that hasn’t seen the ‘Bows advance past the first round of the Big West Tournament since 2016, back when the team also earned the program’s lone NCAA Tournament win. As soon as the 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward sets foot on campus, winning will be the top priority.
“I think the No. 1 thing is winning as many basketball games as possible and then of course, making the NCAA Tournament and being successful in that, I think that’s the goal we have right now and like I said, really excited and can’t wait to get started on working towards that but I think that’s a realistic expectation of us and I think that winning basketball games is something that we want to achieve and do everything we can to achieve that,” Hepa said.