247Sports Brandon Huffman to hold free football recruiting seminar at Moanalua

247Sports Brandon Huffman to hold free football recruiting seminar at Moanalua

247Sports National recruiting editor Brandon Huffman will be on O’ahu on Wednesday, July 10 to put on a football recruiting seminar for high school athletes of all ages. While free, attendees are asked to bring small donations of school supplies.

247Sports Brandon Huffman to hold free football recruiting seminar at Moanalua

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JULY 8, 2024

HONOLULU – After over 20 years of experience in the college football recruiting space, 247Sports National Recruiting Editor Brandon Huffman has a good handle on what it takes to make it to the next level on the gridiron. 

The Polynesian Bowl selection committee member has also seen his fair share of talent come out of the islands, remembering the early days of receiving emails from current Washington Commanders quarterback and former Saint Louis School standout Marcus Mariota to get ranked and rated in a time that Hawai’i wasn’t known for skill-position players or anyone at quarterback. 

Safe to say, times have changed during his career. 

Huffman attended the final Under Armour Next camp on Saturday, July 6 over on Maui’s King Kekaulike high school campus, seeing much of Hawai’i’s top talent for 2025, 2026, 2027 and 2028 recruiting classes. Among those in attendance was Farrington offensive lineman Abel Hoopii, who dominated during the camp to the point of earning an invitation to the 2025 Under Armour Next All-American game after earning OL MVP honors and being named “Alpha Dog” of the camp.  

In total, three invites to the Under Armour All-American game were given to players who attended the camp in Hoopii and Arizona State linebacker commit Isaiah Iosefa joining top offensive lineman recruit and Nebraska commit Houston Kaahaaina-Torres with invites to the prestigious event. Kaahaaina-Torres received his invitation for the 2025 Under Armour All-American game last year during the ESPN 300 Elite Hawaii Camp on Maui. 

Huffman now visits O’ahu for the commitment announcements of Hoopii, Campbell QB Jaron Keawe-Sagapolutele and a few other top recruits from the islands and will hold a free football recruiting seminar at Moanalua High School gym on Wednesday, July 10 for players of all ages from any school. The only request is to bring a small donation of school supplies for those in need for any players planning to attend. 

“This is one of those things where, by being in the recruiting space for 22 years and seeing the variations of where it was in 2003 when I first started covering recruiting to 2024 where social media has become such a huge part of it, where NIL is a huge part of it … I’ve got a lot of bandwidth over the years in terms of information I’ve been able to glean,” Huffman said. “It’s what you have to do [to be recruited and play at the next level].” 

In all, the seminar will touch on topics such as what the rankings and stars of recruiting mean, how to get recruited if you are non-varsity, 7-on-7 and lineman training, what offers and visits mean for recruits and much more. In conjunction with the National Football Foundation’s Hawai’i chapter, Huffman plans to give the encyclopedia of knowledge he’s accumulated over more than two decades about sending kids from the high school to college level. 

247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman will hold a free recruiting clinic for football players on Wednesday, July 10 at 1:00 p.m. at Moanalua HS gym. A small donation of school supplies for those in need is requested from attendees. | Photo Credit: Hawaii High School P.R.O. Day (@808ProDay / via X)

 

Hawai’i football shifting the tides in local recruiting (and people are noticing)

Huffman joined Hawai’i Sports Radio Network to discuss the free recruiting seminar and the camp highlights from Saturday on Maui but touched on Hawai’i football recruiting and a multitude of topics as well. 

The national recruiting editor for 247Sports mentioned being a fan of the strategy employed by Hawai’i head coach Timmy Chang and his staff in recruiting, putting an emphasis on retaining talent that comes from the islands and recruiting at home while still putting the program’s name in the running for various prospects across the continent.  

“I love it,” Huffman said of the talent in the state of Hawai’i. “[The state of Hawai’i] will never be California because it doesn’t have the depth, it may not be Arizona because it doesn’t have the population, but Hawai’i is pushing Arizona and Utah for the number two state out west in terms of top-end talent … You’ve seen the state go from this thought that it’s only lineman to if I want to find a dude, it doesn’t matter what the position is, I’m going to find one [in Hawai’i].” 

In Chang, Huffman also believes that Hawai’i has found a captain to steer the ship in the right direction not just on the field, but in the way he has recruited.  

“You have to understand Hawai’i to recruit to Hawai’i, to coach at Hawai’i,” Huffman said. “You cannot get any more into the fabric of Honolulu, of the island, of UH football than Timmy Chang. It was a tremendous hire … [he took lumps early] but there was never a backing down from him. He wanted to go toe-to-toe with the big boys.” 

While some of those recruiting battles with the “big boys” of the Power 4 conferences don’t go in the favor of Hawai’i, Huffman lauded the staff’s ability to understand the importance of keeping those relationships alive for the future. 

[Chang’s staff] understands that with the local kids that are higher profile, they might leave and go to the mainland to go to school, but they never burn those bridges,” he said. “If he doesn’t like it, if it doesn’t work out, [the player] can come back here and can thrive and Timmy gets that.” 

Huffman has spent plenty of time evaluating prospects from Hawai’i, serving as a recruiting director for the west coast for a substantial portion of his career in sports. Despite gaining national notoriety for his time on the scene for recruiting, Huffman’s greatest venture is his non-profit, the Avery Huffman DIPG Foundation. 

The Avery Huffman DIPG Foundation was established in 2016 to honor the courage, fight and legacy of Brandon Huffman’s 7-year-old daughter Avery, who passed away in February of 2016 after 7-and-a-half-month battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). DIPG is the deadliest form of brain cancer, a rare terminal tumor of the brainstem that occurs almost exclusively in children. 

You can click here for more information about the foundation, how you can donate and more to help in the fight against DIPG. 

Hawai’i’s Jacobs named to Japan national team for 2024 Paris Olympics

Hawai’i’s Jacobs named to Japan national team for 2024 Paris Olympics

Hawai’i sophomore Akira Jacobs made the senior Japanese national team ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics. The 20-year-old will be the youngest player on Japan’s roster. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i’s Jacobs named to Japan national team for 2024 Paris Olympics

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JULY 8, 2024

HONOLULU – Hawai’i sophomore forward Akira Jacobs made the official 12-player Japanese senior national basketball team for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Akatsuki Japan announced Sunday. The 20-year-old will be the youngest player on the Japanese roster for the country’s 8th appearance in the Olympics for basketball. 

“Representing Japan has always just been like something that’s really important to me,” Jacobs said in a Zoom with local media following the selection. “The senior national team has always just been a dream of mine … My goal was always [to make the Japan senior national team for] the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, but given the opportunity, the chance came a lot earlier.”

Jacobs was among the final 16-player pool being considered for Japan across four tune-up games against Australia and South Korea. The final Japanese roster will play two final warm-up games ahead of the Olympics against defending world champion Germany in Berlin on July 19 and world-ranked fourth Serbia two days later in Belgrade. 

The 6-foot-9 forward appeared in 28 games as a true freshman for Hawai’i in 2023-24, averaging 2.4 points and 1.0 rebounds in 6.7 minutes per game. Jacobs found more consistency towards the end of his first year, contributing a pair of 8-point outings against UC Davis over the final month of the season. 

Hawai’i’s Akira Jacobs cheers on his teammates from the bench. The forward appeared in 28 games as a true freshman for Hawai’i last year. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Japan qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics by finishing as the top team from Asia during the 2023 FIBA World Cup, going 3-2 and winning the final two games in the tournament to secure their spot for this upcoming summer. Jacobs was among the final few players cut for Japan ahead of the World Cup and now makes the team just one year later. 

“I’ve gotten physically stronger, like that one year in Hawai’i with Tanner [Hull] really helped me with my strength,” said Jacobs of the one-year difference. “Being able to take more contact while playing a forward position … practicing against guys like Justin [McKoy] and playing against the bigs in the Big West, that was one of the biggest [differences] I’ve seen.”

With the newfound strength has also come more confidence for the soft-spoken sharpshooter, who knocked down multiple 3-pointers in each of his Olympic warm-up games with Japan.

“I know my role, it’s as a shooter,” Jacobs said. “In the first practice game against Korea, I started the game off really bad, missed a couple shots in a row. I feel like a couple years ago, I would’ve stopped there and just not shot the ball. [Now], I have a more of a belief in myself that even if the first couple of plays don’t go well, to be able to work on that next play mentality … I think that’s one of the biggest improvements that I’ve had, which has helped me get to this point.

The experience for the 20-year-old is one made of dreams: fellow Japan national team member and Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura is one of Jacobs’ basketball idols. Hachimura returned to play for Japan for this Olympic Games after not playing in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. 

Hachimura and former NBA swingman Yuta Watanabe headline the Japan national team for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Former ‘Iolani standout Hugh (Hogland) Watanabe also made the final 12-man roster for Japan. With more high-level hoops on the way, Jacobs has already gotten introduced to the senior national team level in a baptism-by-fire matchup in practice.

“The biggest [challenge] for me was my first time matching up with Rui Hachimura,” the 20-year-old forward said with a smile. “He’s been someone who has been so important in my basketball journey … I started watching him when he was at Gonzaga. So, the first time matching up against him and how much faster and how strong he is, his decision making … It was like something that I want to be at. So playing against him – like the first practice – year, it felt like I was getting cooked.”

Akatsuki Japan will be in Group B when the Paris Olympics begin, looking to advance to the quarterfinals out of a loaded pool that includes Germany, Victor Wembanyama-led France and the 12th-ranked squad in the world in Brazil. Japan faces off against Germany first on July 27 at 1:30 a.m. HT to begin the group stage. 

Wilson becomes Las Vegas all-time leading scorer in Aces’ win over Wings

Wilson becomes Las Vegas all-time leading scorer in Aces’ win over Wings

Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson shoots a 3-pointer against the Dallas Wings; Wilson broke the franchise’s all-time scoring record during her 28-point, 10-rebound outing on Sunday. | Photo Credit: Ku’ulei Agbayani, HSRN

Wilson becomes Las Vegas all-time leading scorer in Aces’ win over Wings

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JULY 7, 2024

Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson notched an impressive hole in her belt of greatness on Sunday, becoming the franchise’s all-time leading point-scorer with her 28-point, 10-rebound performance in a 104-85 victory over Dallas. The Aces (13-7) have won eight of their last 10 games after a 5-5 start to the season. 

“It’s very special and definitely will be one for the books for me,” Wilson said of the game. “This city welcomed me in 2018, new franchise, new everything, and they took a chance on a kid. [Former Las Vegas head coach Bill Laimbeer] took a chance on me and told me ‘This is your team’ … Then when you have someone like [head coach Becky Hammon] come in and add some razzle-dazzle to the culture, it makes it a full circle moment for me. I would’ve never thought [I would lead a franchise in total points scored], I’m just grateful to be here.” 

Aces forward A’ja Wilson is recognized on the video board after becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. | Photo Credit: Ku’ulei Agbayani, HSRN

The 27-year-old Wilson scored her 4,301st career point with a free throw with 4:14 left to play in the 4th quarter, passing former San Antonio Stars legend Sophia Young-Malcom’s record of 4,300 points. Wilson accomplished the feat in her 209th career game for Las Vegas, 92 games faster than it took the former San Antonio star to reach the 4,300-point threshold.  

“Both are really special players,” Aces head coach Becky Hammon said of her former teammate and Wilson. “One thing that sticks out [about both], for sure, is they both have phenomenal hands. I could throw the ball to Sohpia Young anywhere and she would grab it. A’ja is the same way.”  

The scoring record comes two weeks after Wilson broke Young-Malcom’s franchise rebounding mark with nine boards in a June 29 win over the Mystics. Young-Malcom was in attendance for the game with nearly 50 former players on Sunday for Alumni Weekend, chatting with the Aces’ MVP-caliber forward following the contest. 

“I have to always give it to the ones that laid the foundation down before me and the ones that grinded it out, the ones that had to do extra just to get seen a little bit,” Wilson said. “Now we’re playing on national television and [getting] chartered flights and everything else. It’s a huge deal for me and it’s something that I don’t take for granted but I’m never going to lose sight of the women that literally had to teeth and claw to get a foot in the door.” 

The #1 overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft, Wilson has dominated since her days at South Carolina. The 6-foot-4 forward has a laundry list of achievements, a spot in the top ten for nearly every category in Aces’ history and three championships (1 NCAA, 2 WNBA) all dashed across her dazzling resume. 

“She’s the best basketball player in the world,” Hammon said of Wilson. “She pushes the envelope for best person in the world, too … She’s the greatest player to put on a Stars or Aces uniform.” 

Dutch guard Van der Knaap commits to Hawai’i ahead of ‘24 season

Dutch guard Van der Knaap commits to Hawai’i ahead of ‘24 season

International guard Jacopo Van der Knaap signed with the Rainbow Warriors for his college choice. | Photo Credit: Hawai’i Athletics

Dutch guard Van der Knaap commits to Hawai’i ahead of ‘24 season

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JULY 3, 2024

HONOLULU – The ‘Bows are swimming in international waters again. 

Hawai’i received a commitment from Dutch guard Jacopo Van der Knaap on Wednesday, who became the sixth member of the ‘Bows 2024 signing class. The 6-foot-5 guard started 25 contests last season, averaging 13 points and three rebounds per game for Tobarra BC. Van der Knaap’s club is in Tercera FEB, part of the professional basketball league system in Spain. 

The 21-year-old will join the Rainbow Warriors with four years of eligibility after serving as a consistent scorer for Tobarra in 2023-24, surpassing the 10-point mark in 17 games. His final season overseas peaked with a four-game stretch of 20-or-more points where Van der Knaap led his club to three wins in four games. He emerged on the ‘Bows radar last summer after dropping 26 points against UC San Diego during the Tritons’ international tour despite meeting with many of his teammates for the first time just before the game. 

“[Hawai’i and I got in contact] through a common friend after [the UC San Diego game] and I thought about going to college,” Van der Knaap said in a phone interview. “I wanted a chance to continue my career as a student and as an athlete and Hawai’i gave me the best opportunity to do it in a good environment.” 

The strong international presence among players stuck out to the half-Dutch, half-Italian guard, discussing the draw of playing with others from different backgrounds internationally. 

“I love playing with people from all over the world,” Van der Knaap said. “It’s like it doesn’t matter once we get on the court, we all have the common language of basketball.” 

The 6-foot-5 guard is a scorer, showing off a nice, repeatable shooting stroke with the tendency get hot from behind the arc. He hit three or more 3-pointers seven times last season from with various shot types, both off the bounce and spotting up off the ball. Van der Knaap shows off the ability to be a three-level scorer, equipped with a quality mid-range pull-up game and the capability to get downhill and all the way to the basket. 

Seasoned with on-court experience and physically ready at 21 years old, Van der Knaap could compete for minutes early in the year with a quality preseason. While he shows potential to initiate with the ball in his hands, Van der Knaap is more suited to be a scoring guard than a true table-setting point guard. 

Born to a Dutch father and Italian mother, Van der Knaap lived in Italy for the first 16 years of his life before moving to Amsterdam. The move progressed his basketball career with chances to play for the Dutch national team, including a 3×3 venture this summer that would provide a bid into next year’s U21 World Cup event depending on his team’s placement. 

College in the US became an option that Van der Knaap would consider just over a year ago. The 6-foot-5 guard said that he had interest from other schools and programs, but Hawai’i stuck out from the group and long was the scoring guard’s top option.  

“I’m excited,” said the incoming freshman. “It will be a whole new experience. It’s on the other side of the world, it’s different style of basketball and with new people. I’m ready for it.” 

The commitment of Van der Knaap brings the ‘Bows recruiting class to six members with three transfers and three high school commitments. The Dutch guard joins Salesian three-star guard Aaron-Hunkin Claytor and prep forward Roy Igwe – along with early enrollee AJ Economou – as players with multiple seasons of eligibility joining Hawai’i next season. 

Stay up to date on Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors basketball recruiting with updates from our recruiting tracker, here. 

Hawai’i lands commitment of prized Xavier transfer Gytis Nemeikša

Hawai’i lands commitment of prized Xavier transfer Gytis Nemeikša

Hawai’i lands commitment of prized Xavier transfer Gytis Nemeikša

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JUNE 28, 2024

HONOLULU – They found Nemo. 

The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team received a massive boost to the 2024-25 roster on Friday as former Xaiver Musketeers forward Gytis “Nemo” Nemeikša announced his commitment to the Rainbow Warriors for his final year of eligibility. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward appeared in 34 games (20 starts) in his lone season at Xavier, averaging 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 18.5 minutes of action each night. 

“I’m really excited to play for Hawai’i,” Nemeikša said. “I’m excited to join the team and get to know my teammates better to become a family.” 

The Lithuanian forward transferred to Xavier ahead of last season from a university in Lithuania, leaving questions as to the total number of years that Nemeikša could play in the NCAA. Those questions were answered in December when he was granted a 2nd year of eligibility by the NCAA. He was ranked as the 5th-best remaining player in the portal as a 4-star transfer by EvanMiya CBB Analytics. He is the highest-rated forward to join the Big West via the transfer portal this offseason. 

“I felt a lot of attention from the staff and I liked the presentation of the team,” Nemeikša said about what set Hawai’i apart in the recruiting process. “You can see that it’s an organization that is very professional and like one big family.” 

Outside of the ‘Bows, Nemeikša was pursued the hardest by Drake, who made the 2024 NCAA Tournament as a 10-seed, and Rhode Island while hearing from a multitude of other schools. 

Nemeikša poured in a season-high 20 points in a 74-71 loss to Washington during the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas, going 7-of-11 from the field (1-of-3 3PT) to lead all scorers in just 28 minutes of action. Playing at national runner-up Purdue, Nemeikša tallied 10 points and seven boards in 25 minutes, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in Xavier’s 83-71 road loss. 

“A very energetic and dedicated player,” Nemeikša said when asked to describe himself. “I’m always playing with a high motor, just doing everything that I can to win. As a person, I am calm and kind. I like to communicate and meet new people.” 

The 6-foot-8 stretch forward enjoyed a 10-point, 5-rebound performance against back-to-back national champion UConn on January 10, starting and playing 22 minutes against the Huskies while shooting an efficient 4-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from 3-point range. After starting in the Musketeers’ first nine games, Nemeikša’s role and playing time began to fluctuate following the flip of the calendar.  

Hawai’i’s transfer portal recruiting class is now at three players as Nemeikša joins HCU guard Marcus Greene and Utah Tech center Tanner Christensen as new Rainbow Warriors. All three of Greene, Christensen and Nemeikša arrive as new ‘Bows have one year of eligibility remaining. Hawai’i will welcome two high school additions in three-star guard Aaron Hunkin-Claytor on scholarship and Roy Igwe as a walk-on while wing AJ Economou will finally enjoy his first court action for the ‘Bows after redshirting the spring semester last year.