Hawaii takes another shot at its first Big West men’s basketball victory at Long Beach State on Thursday.
Sophomore wing Samuta Avea is taking his shot, too.
“We haven’t done well in the Pyramid, so we’re ready to change that,” Avea said with conviction in front of assembled media outside the Stan Sheriff Center.
Behind him, the team prepared to board the bus to the airport at noon Tuesday. For one of the first times in his young career, he was the designated speaker among players after tying his personal best of 13 points in a 21-point home loss against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.
The 6-foot-6 Kahuku product is without question the most athletic Rainbow Warrior. His energy and all-around activity was on display on Saturday in what was an otherwise miserable experience for UH (13-8, 4-3 BWC); Avea shot 4-for-7 to go with six rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes against the Gauchos.
Among that was a 2-for-3 outing on 3s that — and it’s worth noting that this would never be said in high school or his earliest college days — was one of the least surprising things he did that night. Avea has been lights-out from 3 in conference play: 7-for-10 from deep in seven Big West contests, all off the bench. In last week’s home win over LBSU, he was 2-for-3 there, too, with the makes helping dig the ‘Bows out of an early 11-2 hole.
For the season, he is shooting 44.8 percent (13-for-29) from downtown, up from 22.7 percent (5-for-22) his true freshman season. In percentage, he leads his team by a considerable margin. What was once the most glaring hole in his game has now become a weapon, although he’d still never be confused for a volume 3-point shooter like Eddie Stansberry (61 makes, .361 shooting) or Jack Purchase (49 makes, .355).
“Definitely the work that I put in in the past, and finding out a good routine to do before the game,” Avea said for the reason behind his improved shooting. “Myself, I was trying to find it, how to come off the bench really ready to go. Yeah, I’ve got a good pregame routine going on now.”
“Just making sure I got a good sweat in. Me and our (graduate assistant) Dom (Drury), we get in a good workout like two hours before the game. A lot of shots up, so I don’t feel cold on the bench when I come in. I’m ready to go.”
For the full season, he’s contributing 5.2 points per game in 16.7 minutes per game, up from 2.6 in 7.9. In Big West play, he’s shooting 57.7 percent (45.5 for the full season).
UH coach Eran Ganot said it’s “the best level he’s played at since he’s been here.”
“Look, he’s a great worker,” Ganot said. “You come in (to practice) early or late, he’ll probably be there. You come during the day and maybe walk around campus, you might hear the ball bouncing — he’s in there. Shooting’s always a combination of a couple things. One, your mechanics. It has improved there. (Two), the reps. And then the shots he’s getting in the offense, taking good shots, good shot selection.
“I think that’s really spread it out for our team. I think eventually other guys who might be struggling — Brocke (Stepteau)’s going to shoot it well, he’s a good shooter — but in the meantime, Sheriff (Drammeh)’s shot it well in league, maybe not so much the last couple games, but he’s shot it well in league. Muta giving us another threat has helped our overall offense.”