Mater Dei wing commits to “dream school” in University of Hawai’i

Mater Dei wing commits to “dream school” in University of Hawai’i

Mater Dei wing commits to “dream school” in University of Hawai’i

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JUNE 20, 2024

HONOLULU – Since age four, Scotty Belnap has known that he wanted to play for the University of Hawai’i. 

The 6-foot-6 wing out of Mater Dei (CA) announced his commitment to the ‘Bows on Thursday following a successful senior season that finished with his Monarchs ranked inside the nation’s top 50 high school boys’ basketball teams. After winning 29 games and losing only six during his final campaign, the 2024 graduate will embark on a 2-year LDS mission to Bahía Blanca, Argentina before joining Hawai’i ahead of the 2026-27 season as a preferred walk-on with eyes on earning a scholarship. 

“Hawai’i has been my dream school for pretty much my entire life,” Belnap said in a phone interview. “When [the opportunity to play for UH] came around, I knew what I wanted to do.” 

The lanky shooter spent four years on varsity at Mater Dei, quickly becoming one of legendary coach Gary McKnight’s most trusted players as a lockdown defender and reliable scoring outlet. During his junior and senior seasons, he also served as a captain for the Monarchs. 

While Belnap leaves for his 2-year mission that will include a two-month crash-course on speaking Spanish before arriving to Argentina, the guard assured that he would be able to work and serve at the same time ahead of his arrival on campus in 2026. 

“I’ll be able to work-out in the mornings most times there,” he said of his plans for basketball in the meantime. “Luckily, basketball is also popular in Argentina, so it won’t be like there’s no courts anywhere. There will be some chances for me to still work on my game, too.” 

The initial spark between the ‘Bows and Belnap becoming a real-life pairing came back when the guard visited the island in 8th grade with his school for a basketball trip that included a tour of the Hawai’i campus and a chance to say hello and meet some of the faces among the Rainbow Warriors men’s program. 

One of those faces? New assistant coach Gibson Johnson during his first stint in Hawai’i. 

The two hit it off quickly, creating a bond that would later down the line result in the 6-foot-6 guard committing to Utah Tech last August where Johnson was coaching. Following Johnson’s recent hiring at Hawai’i and Belnap’s recent decommitment from the Trailblazers, the two connected again. 

“I really like Coach Gibson and I love the school. I got a chance [to be on O’ahu] a few days ago and it just felt like everything I wanted was lining up nicely,” the guard shared. 

Belnap enjoyed an incredibly successful high school career, winning 111 games in his four years on varsity while the program posted a winning percentage of .836 during his time at Mater Dei. The 6-foot-6 do-it-all wing improved his statistics every season, averaging 9.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game this past year while the Monarchs marched past the competition. Mater Dei had 19 of the 29 victories come by a margin of at least 20 points while 13 wins were decided by more than 25 points. 

“I honestly don’t care if I am scoring [40 points] or if I’m held scoreless as long as when the buzzer sounds, my team is the one who won,” Belnap said of his mindset. 

Keep up to date with the latest in Hawai’i men’s basketball recruiting with Hawai’i Sports Radio Network’s tracker or follow Paul Brecht on Twitter/X (@12brecht) for up-to-date information regarding the ‘Bows. 

Dynamic transfer guard Marcus Greene announces commitment to Hawai’i

Dynamic transfer guard Marcus Greene announces commitment to Hawai’i

Former HCU guard Marcus Greene has committed to Hawai’i men’s basketball | via UH Athletics, Marcus Greene

Dynamic transfer guard Marcus Greene announces commitment to Hawai’i

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 2, 2024

HONOLULU – The grass is certainly a bit more “Greene” for the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors as the offseason recruiting cycle rages on. 

Hawai’i’s backcourt rotation for next season received a huge boost on Thursday as Houston Christian transfer Marcus Greene committed to the ‘Bows, via the guard’s Instagram account. The 6-foot-2 junior became the 2nd college transfer to commit to UH this offseason and should be an immediate contributor for the Rainbow Warriors after averaging 15.1 points per contest for the Huskies during the 2023-24 campaign, shooting 42.7% from 3-point range and dishing out three assists a game. 

The guard spent his freshman season at Sacramento State before spending a year at Panola College (TX), transferring out from the NJCAA program to HCU after helping lead the team to a top-10 national ranking and a regional final in his lone season. Greene visited the University of Hawai’i campus last weekend, meeting with the team and coaching staff as he mulled over his next college home. 

“Hawai’i is such a beautiful place, enriched with culture and is like no other place to live so that really spoke to me,” Greene said about what helped push him to Hawai’i. “Even more so, talking and spending time with the players and coaching staff made my decision clear.” 

The Gilroy, California-native guard fills another one of the holes left by the graduation of six seniors from last season’s Hawai’i team while providing a different level of athleticism in the backcourt. Greene, who knocked down a 3-pointer in 25 of 28 games last season and averaged 2.2 made 3-pointers per contest for the Huskies, is expected to help ease the loss of sharpshooting guards Juan Munoz and Noel Coleman. 

In 2023-24, Greene took his game to a higher level the better the competition got. Against high-major schools or programs from the NCAA tournament field, he averaged 17.4 points per game. Among other schools that were active in Greene’s recruitment included St. Bonaventure, UC Davis and San Jose State before the standout guard eventually decided to bring his talent to the islands of Hawai’i. 

The junior guard said that he’s already excited about getting to work with the staff and his new teammates, eyeing a dream season in his move to paradise. 

“I’m super excited and have high hopes on what we can be together as a team. Now, we can enjoy the fun in working and building up so we can become exactly what we strive for,” Greene said of his mindset going into his final year of eligibility. “It is really such a blessing that I can pursue academics and athletics here in Hawai’i.” 

Greene joins Utah Tech transfer Tanner Christensen as part of the ‘Bows reload, providing two experienced college players to a team that likely will see many minutes be filled with underclassmen such as Tom Beattie and Akira Jacobs. Hawai’i also will add Salesian point guard and three-star recruit Aaron Hunkin-Claytor as part of the 2024 recruiting class while continuing activity among transfer portal players. 

For the latest on Hawai’i recruiting, check out Hawai’i Sports Radio Network’s UH men’s basketball recruiting tracker, here.

LBSU’s Acker draws from Hawai’i pipeline, set to add Montgomery to staff

LBSU’s Acker draws from Hawai’i pipeline, set to add Montgomery to staff

LBSU’s Acker draws from Hawai’i pipeline, set to add Montgomery to staff

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APRIL 23, 2024

HONOLULU – A new challenge awaits. 

After nine seasons with Hawai’i, men’s basketball associate head coach John Montgomery is taking a job at Long Beach State, joining 1st-year head coach Chris Acker’s staff in a similar role. The duo reunites after spending formative years in their coaching careers together on Eran Ganot’s original coaching staff that led Hawai’i through the highs and lows of winning the 2016 Big West Tournament before helping keep the team successful through a postseason ban and scholarship reduction that was levied on the program during the following season from the previous coaching staff’s sin. 

Originally from Menlo Park, Calif., Montgomery was the longest-tenured assistant on the UH staff after joining Ganot’s inaugural coaching collection in 2015-16 as an assistant coach and was elevated to his current role ahead of the 2021 season. According to Montgomery, the decision to leave Hawai’i did not come lightly and involved a combination of factors that together were too much to leave on the table. With a chance to re-join a close friend in Acker back in his home state and move within an hour’s drive of his parents, sister and his three nieces, a full family feel was the only way to pull Montgomery from the islands. 

“I am incredibly indebted to Coach Ganot for the opportunity to coach at such an incredible place for nearly a decade,” Montgomery expressed. “The gratitude I feel for allowing me to grow over these last nine years is huge. I have all the belief in the world in Eran and the rest of the staff to continue to keep this program a consistent threat in the conference.” 

Acker, a former University of Hawai’i men’s basketball assistant coach under Ganot, immediately draws from the Rainbow Warrior coaching pipeline that has not gone under .500 in Big West play since Ganot took over. The former SDSU assistant coach crossed over with Montgomery in the islands, cultivating a close relationship in two seasons with UH as a part of the original Ganot staff that helped lead the ‘Bows to a school-record 28 wins, a Big West Conference title, and an appearance into the NCAA Tournament Round of 32. 

Acker left the program after the 2016-17 season for a job with the Mountain West’s Boise State before jumping over to San Diego State where he has spent the past five seasons. Montgomery, who had a connection with another SDSU assistant coach that dated back to his childhood, continued to stay in touch with Acker over the years as the Aztecs made multiple runs in the NCAA Tournament. 

While at Hawai’i, Acker oversaw the Rainbow Warriors’ defense and post player development. Montgomery had since taken over the same roles for the ‘Bows following Acker’s departure, also wearing the hat of recruiting coordinator for UH at points of his tenure, showing a propensity for international and West Coast recruitment. 

Montgomery came to Hawai’i after spending seven seasons on the West Coast between San Francisco (2014-15) and the University of California, Berkley (2008-2014) in various roles. John grew up in California as the son of College Basketball Hall of Fame coach Mike Montgomery, played college basketball for four years at Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles and now returns closer to family in his home state. 

“It was not an easy decision in the slightest,” the 40-year-old father and husband emphasized in a phone call. “My wife is from [Hawai’i], I met her here and we had our daughter here. A piece of my heart will always be in Hawai’i, and I wish I could express just how much I appreciate the fans and the aloha for the people here.” 

The elder Montgomery, 77, coached a combined 24 seasons between Stanford and California in a 32-year career in college that ended with an induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class, going along with his 2002 induction into his alma mater Long Beach State’s Hall of Fame. His decorated career also included a brief two-year stint coaching the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. 

Mike Montgomery was a member of the graduating class of 1968 and played three seasons of basketball for LBSU, joining behind his father’s footsteps as part of Long Beach State’s athletics’ department. The late Jack Montgomery, grandfather of John and father of Mike, was named the school’s first athletic director in 1951 and spent 13 years running the ship for the Beach before stepping down to return to coaching in 1964. With the move back to the Beach, the youngest of the Montgomery men will continue in familial footsteps in familiar stomping grounds. 

“It’ll definitely be weird [to coach against Hawai’i],” he said about the shift in-conference. “It was a chance to help rebuild another program and continue growing towards a head coaching role while being back closer to my family.” 

No decision has been made on the replacement for Montgomery. Sources close to the Hawai’i program believe that assistant coach Brad Davidson could be elevated to the associate head coach role while a search for an open assistant coaching spot will go on.

Pepper, UC Davis holds off furious Hawai’i comeback attempt to advance to Big West championship

Pepper, UC Davis holds off furious Hawai’i comeback attempt to advance to Big West championship

Pepper, UC Davis holds off furious Hawai’i comeback attempt to advance to Big West championship

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 15, 2024

Too little, too late. 

After falling down by as much as 17 in the 2nd half, fifth-seeded Hawai’i gave second-seeded UC Davis a scare in the final minutes as the ‘Bows had a shot to take the lead with five seconds to play that bounced off back iron, allowing the Aggies to escape to Saturday’s Big West Tournament championship against Long Beach State. 

Hawai’i, coming off a 75-68 victory over #7 CSUN on Thursday, started slowly as UC Davis raced out to an 11-2 lead out of the gates behind the hot shooting of the three-guard lineup of Kane Milling, Ty Johnson and Big West Player of the Year winner Elijah Pepper. The Aggies continued to flex the offensive fire power by hitting nine of the first 12 attempts from the field en route to a 20-6 lead after eight minutes of action. 

The ‘Bows shook off the slow start to stick around, cutting the UC Davis lead to three with a 18-7 run over the next four minutes of game action behind a litany of Rainbow Warriors finding their touch from the field as UH drilled a pair of triples and attacked the rim far better than early on. 

Back-to-back Munoz 3-pointers brought Hawai’i within two and the 8th-year guard whipped a pass to Bernardo de Silva for a two-handed dunk to end the opening half keeping UH down a pair, 31-29. 

The 2nd half began similar to the first for Hawai’i, watching another sizzling UC Davis offensive spurt with a 17-2 run out of the break leading to a game-high 17-point lead for the Aggies after Pablo Tamba finished an alley-oop lob from Elijah Pepper with 13:57 left to play. 

Following a 30-second timeout from head coach Eran Ganot, Hawai’i’s offense settled once again as Ryan Rapp drained a straight away triple for the ‘Bows first field goal of the 2nd half. Justin McKoy scored the next four points before Munoz drilled another 3-pointer for Hawai’i, but UH continued struggling getting stops against UC Davis as the margin remained 17 through the 10:47 mark of the 2nd half. 

A 7-0 Hawai’i run in a blink of an eye brought the ‘Bows back within ten after Akira Jacobs drilled his 2nd 3-pointer of the evening before making his third and fourth foul shots of the season to make it 58-48 UC Davis with 8:31 left to play. While the deficit remained around double-digits until the three-minute mark for Hawai’i, the ‘Bows had their swagger back for one last push for an upset in the semifinals. 

Six consecutive makes from the free throw line for UH brought Hawai’i within four, 66-62, with 1:17 left in regulation before Pepper lost the ball off his leg to give the ‘Bows a chance to cut it to a one-possession game with more than a minute left. 

Ty Johnson came up with a clutch strip on McKoy’s drive on the next possession, keeping the two-possession lead for UC Davis while the Aggies drained every second off of the clock possible. After Hawai’i forced a shot clock violation, McClanahan powered through contact for an and-one at the rim that brought UH within one, 66-65, with 27 seconds to play. 

Without any timeouts, the Rainbow Warriors came up with a steal at midcourt as Noel Coleman jumped a passing lane to provide the go-ahead chance to Hawai’i but McClanhan’s stepback jumper from the left elbow bounced off back rim and Justin McKoy was called for a loose-ball foul as the ‘Bows fell in the semifinals, 68-65. 

UC Davis All-Big West 1st team selection and conference Player of the Year Elijah Pepper willed the Aggies to victory down the stretch, pouring in a game-high 25 points on 10-of-23 shooting with 17 points coming in the final 20 minutes. Kane Milling followed behind with 14 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes of action while Ty Johnson added 12 points and five dimes in the victory for UC Davis. 

Hawai’i was led by Bernardo de Silva’s 14 points in 34 minutes, making 5-of-6 FG attempts and going 4-for-6 at the charity stripe in the loss. Juan Munoz and Justin McKoy were the other two Rainbow Warriors in double figures, finishing with 11 and 10 points respectively. 

JoVon McClanahan added nine points off the bench for Hawai’i, going 7-for-7 at the free throw line and nearly adding one final buzzer-beating memory to his UH ledger as his jumper went awry for the ‘Bows at the end.  

Freshman Akira Jacobs matched a season-high with eight points and a pair of 3-pointers while Tom Beattie provided physical defense across 31 minutes and chipped in a bucket in the ‘Bows loss. 

Hawai’i now discusses postseason options for a large graduating class of six seniors, considering joining the College Basketball Invitational tournament, a single-elimination tournament featuring 16 teams that were not selected to the NCAA Tournament or NIT. Teams participating in the CBI pay a $27,500 entry fee for playing in the tournament. 

Hawai’i takes rubber match over CSUN, moves into Big West semifinals

Hawai’i takes rubber match over CSUN, moves into Big West semifinals

Hawai’i guard Noel Coleman attacks the rim during a home win over UC Bakersfield. The senior was one of four ‘Bows that scored in double figures in the Rainbow Warriors’ Big West Tournament quarterfinal win over CSUN on March 14. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i takes rubber match over CSUN, moves into Big West semifinals

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 14, 2024

On to the next one. 

For the second time in three seasons, third-seeded Hawai’i (20-13, 11-9 Big West) advanced into the Big West Tournament semifinals after taking down tenacious seventh-seed CSUN on Thursday night in the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nev., 75-68, for the ‘Bows fourth straight win. 

The Matadors (19-15, 9-11 Big West), who entered the day coming off a late-night overtime victory over Ajay Mitchell and UC Santa Barbara for the program’s first win in the conference tournament in a decade, looked like the team that received the 1st-round bye into the tournament as they scored four of the first five baskets of the game to jump out to an 8-2 lead just five minutes into action. Hawai’i’s offense struggled out the gates, needing to shake off some rust while shooting just 1-for-8 from the floor and committing a pair of turnovers. 

Bernardo de Silva split a pair of free throws before Noel Coleman finally ended the FG drought for the ‘Bows, drilling a 3-pointer from the right side to double UH’s scoring output from the first six minutes with one flick of his left wrist. 

Coleman’s bucket helped see the offense find friction for Hawai’i as Tom Beattie pushed down the floor quickly after for a right-handed layup before Justin McKoy got on the board for the first time in the Big West Tournament twenty seconds later to pull UH within a possession, trailing CSUN 12-10. 

“Early on in the year when we were struggling, teams went on runs and we didn’t respond and stop the bleeding early enough … [At this point of the season] we know to cut the bleeding, go on our own run and respond and I thought we’ve been doing a great job of that as of late and I thought we did it today,” McKoy said, discussing the team’s bounce back from a rough shooting start. 

McKoy, who earned his first career All-Conference team selection earlier this week when he was named 2nd-team All-Big West, strung together five more points in a row for the ‘Bows with a trip to the line and his first triple of the evening before sophomore forward Harry Rouhliadeff made it a new ball game with 8:38 left in the opening half, tying it at 20 with five points. 

Senior guard JoVon McClanahan delivered the ‘Bows first lead since the second possession of the game with his first basket of the night, dancing his way to the cup with 6:20 remaining before halftime. The two sides traded the lead back and forth over the next few minutes before Rouhliadeff hit a pair of free throws and Coleman sunk a close-range bucket to give Hawai’i multi-possession lead for the first time all evening. 

Trouble hit when Rouhliadeff left the game at the 2:23 mark after taking a nasty fall and appearing to hit his head on the ground. The sophomore had chipped in seven points and five rebounds while collecting an emphatic block on defense off the bench before being helped off the floor following the fall. He did not return to the game. 

“I thought that was kind of a microcosm of the year,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said after the game. “We dealt with adversity all year, we dealt with adversity in the game. Harry had a great first half and went out and he stepped up, [then] we had to step up for him.” 

Freshman forward Akira Jacobs checked in to replace Rouhliadeff for the final two minutes of the half, drilling one from long-distance to push Hawai’i into the locker rooms leading by six, 36-30. 

While the ‘Bows got plenty of help from the youth over the opening 20 minutes, it was the program’s seniors that stepped up to help Hawai’i maintain control throughout the 2nd half. 

Coleman, de Silva and McKoy scored Hawai’i’s first 17 points out of the break, helping the ‘Bows push the lead into double digits before the Matadors were able to string together an 8-0 run to make UH’s lead just 53-51 with under 12 minutes left in regulation. 

Akira Jacobs ended the Hawai’i scoring drought with an easy finish inside off a nice feed from Ryan Rapp to put UH back up four before de Silva sandwiched a Coleman 3-pointer with a couple of layups and Beattie scampered out for a fast-break layup to give the ‘Bows an 8-point lead once again with 5:25 remaining. 

CSUN junior Keonte George would not let the Matadors fade easily, dashing down the floor for back-to-back transition buckets to pull CSUN within a possession a minute and a half after the Rainbow Warriors’ run. Dionte Bostick put one last scare in Hawai’i fans by bringing CSUN within two, 68-66, with 2:35 left but that was the closest that the seventh-seeded Matadors would get the rest of the night. 

Hawai’i iced the game from the line as Coleman, McKoy and de Silva all made foul shots down the stretch to deliver the Rainbow Warriors to victory, 75-68. 

All-Big West 1st-Team selection De’Sean Allen-Eikens led all scorers on the night, pouring in 22 points and nine rebounds, going 9-of-19 from the field in 39 minutes for CSUN. Guard Dionte Bostick added 18 points but went 0-for-4 from 3-point range as the Matadors struggled from distance all night, going 3-of-17 from behind the arc in the loss. 

Hawai’i’s Justin McKoy shook off a poor shooting night to lead the ‘Bows in scoring, dropping 16 points while drilling three triples as four different Rainbow Warriors finished the game in double-figures for points. Bernardo de Silva, who was an All-Big West honorable mention this year, followed closely behind with 14 points and nine boards in the win for the ‘Bows. The 5th-year senior also passed the career 1,000-point threshold in the 2nd half, becoming the second Rainbow Warrior to achieve the feat this year (Coleman). 

“Bernardo has been great all year … [playing with] four fouls and he was able to stay in the game and just defend and I think that defense was huge for us, especially in the paint,” McKoy said of his Brazilian forward’s savvy play down the stretch. 

Noel Coleman and Juan Munoz finished with 12 points and 11 points respectively, hitting a combined five 3-pointers to out-shoot CSUN from long range by themselves. 

Hawai’i advances to Friday’s Big West Tournament semifinals and a date with #2 UC Davis, another program that the ‘Bows split the regular season series with. The Aggies pose a tough challenge, boasting Big West Player of the Year Elijah Pepper alongside a talented supporting cast. UH head coach Eran Ganot was unable to give an update on the status of forward Harry Rouhliadeff’s availability for Friday following the game. 

“We were smart about [his injury] and we’ll get more information. I don’t have any information now, but we’ll get it and provide it and kind of go from there,” Ganot shared. “It was good to be able to get it done without him and step up for him while we figure out his situation.” 

Hawai’i dominated UC Davis back on February 10, 87-70, part of the stark late-season turnaround by the ‘Bows that saw UH go 9-3 over the final 12 games of the regular season. One of those three losses did come when Hawai’i visited UC Davis two and a half weeks later and fell, 75-63. 

“I just think those [earlier] experiences – losing close games early, winning close games late, losing overtime games and then winning overtime games late,” Ganot said postgame. “Sometimes you got to go through it and sometimes you have got to grow from pain, but this group stayed together through all of that.”