UH men’s basketball coach Eran Ganot remains optimistic despite turbulent offseason

Sports

Hawaii head coach Eran Ganot yells direction at his team as they take on UNLV during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Diamond Head Classic, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

In an offseason where the University of Hawaii men’s basketball program did not have to lose any players after the NCAA extended extra eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rainbow Warriors already had five members of the 2020-2021 team depart following the season.

James-Jean Marie, Justin Webster, Justin Hemsley and Kameron Ng entered the NCAA transfer portal, while freshman starting point guard Biwali Bayles left to pursue pro ball in his native Australia.

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Additional players could leave, such as starting forward Casdon Jardine, who previously said he was ’95 percent’ sure he would not return for another year. Head coach Eran Ganot attributes the mass exodus to the current nature of the business.

“It was moving in that direction. It’s March 29 and there’s 1,050 transfers, that equals the amount of all of last year in college basketball in a year where it was already trending in that direction so I think it’s a little bit of a perfect storm,” Ganot told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “You’re coming off a COVID year, the transfer regulations, there’s obviously an expectation that the one-time transfer exception will be removed. So the combination of that and the way it’s been going coming off of a COVID year, we’ve already had as many as we’ve had last year so it’s something that no one’s immune to, but you have to understand the reality of the situation and adjust.”

Just as the ‘Bows have lost a handful of players to the transfer portal, Ganot views the transfer portal as an opportunity to replenish his program. Whoever is brought in to fill the open scholarship voids, Ganot hopes the 2021-2022 group can break a current trend of four .500 finishes in Big West play in the last five seasons and four straight first round exits in the conference tournament.

“I feel like we’re just ready for that breakthrough, obviously. This is a tough thing I’m used to. We had two buzzer-beater losses and some of these conference tournament games and we had a close loss this year but there’s no moral victory,” Ganot said. “I know our team has kind of been treading water. We’ve been right there but haven’t gotten over the hump and that’s the reality of the situation and I understand that as much as anybody, as someone who has great love for this game, for this profession, for this program, I’m learning with everybody. Yet at the same time, myself, my team, our staff, we’re not sitting there hanging our heads pouting, we’re gaining confidence, heading back to work and I know there’s a lot of people who’ve been through this before and come out better for it so at the end of the day, I come back and go, ‘You know, there’s a reason for all this.’

“There’s better days ahead, we’re not as far off as we think, and I’m excited to make sure the priority right now is to make sure our guys recharge their batteries and scheduling, recruiting and things like that and that’s where you kind of get back into work. You don’t overanalyze it, beat yourself up too much, there’s plenty of that. There’s a lot of love for what we’re trying to do and understanding how hard it is. We gotta do some things better and we’re looking hard at ourselves across the board with the confidence that we’ll make the necessary adjustments.”

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