Samuta Avea is eager to take Hawaii basketball team to Laie

Nov. 18—Growing up on Oahu's North Shore, University of Hawaii basketball player Samuta Avea fostered an ambitious hoops dream.

Growing up on Oahu's North Shore, University of Hawaii basketball player Samuta Avea fostered an ambitious hoops dream.

"I tried to get on every basketball court in that area, " Avea said.

That meant navigating his jump shot through the tradewinds at Laie Park, his first dunk at Kahuku District Park, and getting a morning workout at Brigham Young-Hawaii's Cannon Activities Center.

Avea returns to the BYUH campus when UH and Hawaii Pacific meet at noon Saturday at Cannon.

"It'll be really cool to be where it all started, " said Avea, a 6-foot-6 senior wing. "I'm just excited to have the guys there, too, just to share the experience with them."

Coach Eran Ganot said the game is part of a plan to connect with different communities in the state. During the summer, the'Bows put on a clinic on Kauai. Post player Kamaka Hepa grew up in Alaska, but his father is from Kauai.

"The islands here are tremendous, " Ganot said. "They offer different perspectives, including on this island. Now we get to take our guys to the North Shore. They enjoyed Kauai. It's a celebration of the island, this great game and the community. Giving back. What's better than that ?"

Ganot said scheduling availability led to the'Bows playing at Cannon on Saturday and in next week's Patty Mills North Shore Classic. Ganot said both events were being planned simultaneously. "It's the way it worked out, " Ganot said of Saturday's meeting. "It could have been whenever. The way the schedule was laid out, the way the openings were for our schedule, our opponents', and when we could go over there, that's the way it played out."

Avea's family has ties to BYUH. The Mormon Church owns both BYUH and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Many BYUH students are employed at PCC. For nearly two decades through 2002, Avea's father, Chief Sielu Avea, was the featured fireknife performer and host of the Samoan Village at the PCC. The elder Avea was the first world fireknife champion. He now runs Chief's Luau, a popular Polynesian show on Oahu. Samuta Avea often worked as a drummer during his father's shows.

Avea recalled attending BYUH basketball games at Cannon. "I was always there, " he said. "I was supporting. I was sneaking in, trying to get into the games."

In 2016, sign-ups were filled for Steph Curry's basketball camp at Cannon.

But a year later, BYUH dropped its sports program, ending a fan base that enthusiastically supported teams through NAIA District 29 and Division II battles.

Ganot, a basketball historian, knew of the North Shore's "rabid fan base, a knowledgeable fan base, a great fan base. All of us who have been on the island are familiar with their great fans, and great people. To take our group over there is really exciting."

Of the homecoming, Avea said, "it's huge. It's hard to explain. I'm excited to see how the turnout is. I've talked to a lot of people, and a lot of people are excited to come watch. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be out there and play basketball in front of my people."