Here are questions and answers from my interview on Tuesday with Hawaii basketball coach Gib Arnold that didn’t get into today’s column.
Q: Vander Joaquim looks significantly stronger.
A: “He’s gained strength, quite a bit of strength. When he got here he was out of shape. He was able to take a big body and make it a strong body. He’s what you want in a big. He’s about 250 pounds now.”
Q: His demeanor seems more assertive.
A: “Oh yeah, oh yeah. He was unsure of himself when he first got here. He hadn’t had that much success and had been a lot of different places. He didn’t trust a lot of people. Part of it was the language issue. Now he has a great relationship with his teammates and me. He was quiet. Now he’s vocal and we look up to him for leadership.”
Q: Why do you think he stayed when so many other players left early?
A: “Foreign players don’t have that pull. Vander came to find something special and change his life.”
Q: Did you ever think he would leave?
A: “I can guarantee you 100 percent of the time I said that’s not the case.”
Q: Headed into your third season expectations are going to be fairly high. How do you feel about that?
A: “I think they’re right where they should be. It’s fair to say when we took over the program was down. Attendance, a lot of things were dwindling. It is not easy to turn momentum. Ups and downs both years, and then growth.
“I think we have a solid foundation of youth and upper classmen. My idea coming in was build with youth and build a program. I played and coached junior college, I’m not anti-JUCO. But if you want to build a program that can weather the storms you have to have freshmen who stay and mature, learn your system and eventually teach freshmen. You have to be able to redshirt freshmen and let them mature physically.
“I believe that kind of team plays harder.”
“It’s different than programs with one-and-done players. I’ve coached a lot of one-and-done guys. It’d be a good problem to have here.”
“We have to recruit young men who want to come for the college education and unique experience. We need guys who think more globally than the average 17-year-old. Think beyond their own fence and their own town.”
Q: Isaac Fotu chose Hawaii over some pretty good basketball schools. How did this come about?
A: “He’s Tongan. We don’t get him if not for our Polynesian community. He has family here. We went to the churches. Asked, ‘Any Fotus here?’ And there were.
“He felt very comfortable, like he’s coming home”
“We have to create our own (recruiting) advantages. I’m tired of hearing we can’t do this, we can’t do that.”
Q: Can you tell us a little more about Isaac?
A: “His dad played pro rugby. He’s used to pounding inside. We’re working to develop his outside game. He was 300 pounds as an eighth-grader. He’s got great feet, mobility. 6-7. Zero questions about toughness (dislocated shoulder). Very coachable.”
Q: What are your thoughts on joining the Big West?
A: “I like it. I was one of the coaches who voted against it. But I can see the reasoning behind it after seeing what happened to the WAC.”
Q: It should help your recruiting in the Los Angeles area, right?
A: “Yes. Now we can tell a mom she’ll see her son every other Thursday and Sunday in the winter.”
“San Diego State and Boise State add immensely to the conference because of their profiles.”
Q: Some don’t like that only one team from the conference makes it to the NCAA Tournament. Do you think this can change?
A: “When I was at Pepperdine I saw the WCC become a two-bid league. It’s up to the new teams to raise the level and do that.”