HONOLULU (KHON2) — After opting out of the 2020-2021 college basketball season, Kahuku alumnus Samuta Avea has decided to return to the University of Hawaii men’s basketball program for the 2021-2022 season.
Avea cited COVID-19 concerns during the time of his original opt-out last December. Because the NCAA allowed an extra year of eligibility due to the nature of the ongoing pandemic, Avea will be a senior this upcoming season. Despite the options that may have been out there for his last season of college ball, he says there’s no other team he’d suit up for.
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“Playing for this team means a lot more to me than it would for just the average college player. It’s home for me, it’s a special part of my heart to put on this jersey every game still and I haven’t done that for a while so it’s gonna feel really special when I get to do it again,” Avea told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “There’s a lot of stuff going on with transfers and all that and I wish the guys well that are moving on but I’m doing my part in the social media world and trying to get guys here and I only want guys that want to be here so I’m excited to bring them in and make them family quick because it’s time to go. It was a no-brainer for me, finishing it off at home. There’s so many goals I got left to take care of this year and I’m ready to do that.”
The 2020-2021 edition of the Rainbow Warriors went 11-10 overall and 9-9 in Big West Conference play. It was the fourth time in five years that the ‘Bows went .500 in conference play. Additionally, their loss to UC Riverside in the Big West tournament was their fourth consecutive first-round exit.
Avea followed the team intently last season, wishing there was more he could do than watch from afar.
“It took a really long time. Thinking about it, talking with my family. But I felt that it was the best thing for myself and my future,” Avea said of the opt-out. “Watching the team, still getting sweaty palms when I would turn on the game and stuff and cheering them on, they fought hard and they had a good season and I’m proud of what they did but definitely wish I could’ve been out there but excited for what’s to come for sure.”
When Avea makes his return to campus soon, the team will get back a player that’s gotten better each year. After being a role player his first two years, Avea was the team’s starting small forward as a junior in the 2019-2020 season, averaging 10.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He figures to reclaim that role in 2021-2022, as the program has been decimated by departures. James-Jean Marie, Justin Webster, Biwali Bayles, Casdon Jardine, Justin Hemsley, Manel Ayol and Kameron Ng were all players on the roster at the start of the 2020-2021 season that have since left.
Despite not playing any official games last season, Avea stayed sharp by training in West Coast with stops in Utah, California and Arizona. By the time he rejoins the team, he believes he’s arriving new and improved.
“I tried to put myself in a lot of uncomfortable situations. I was away for a long time of that opt-out season. Just putting myself in those situations where I was uncomfortable and overcoming those and really just all-around maturity for my entire game,” Avea said. “I’m coming back with more fire than ever and I’m not coming alone, either. We got new guys coming and some that people don’t know about yet but are gonna be really excited about so I’m excited for that to come out and I think the islands will have a lot to cheer for this coming year for sure.”