Thursday was a day of some very notable personnel movement for the Hawaii men’s basketball team.
First, news broke that former Washington State guard Ahmed Ali had transferred to join the Rainbow Warriors for his last season of college eligibility.
Later in the day, word began to percolate that associate head coach Adam Jacobsen, the right-hand man of head coach Eran Ganot for the last four years, is apparently on his way out from Manoa.
These moves are potentially huge, and obviously for some vastly different reasons.
Jacobsen is reportedly a candidate for a “similar position on the mainland,” per Stephen Tsai. Jacobsen, who is technically still at UH, wasn’t immediately available for comment. Ganot has rightly hailed him for the wide variety of duties he performed while here, and did so again in speaking to Tsai on Thursday.
It looks pretty strongly that Jacobsen is gone. UH posted the position of Associate or Assistant Basketball Coach (Men) on its jobs website on Tuesday.
Jacobsen will be missed greatly, and in a number of ways. Pacific’s career 3-point leader had a firm hand in implementing the Rainbow Warriors’ four-out offense and guiding the Rainbow Warriors players through its nuances — newcomers and veterans alike. He’s served as recruiting coordinator. He specifically oversaw the point guards, the sport’s floor generals.
And when it was his turn to scout an opponent at practice, watching him go to work was truly a privilege. He’d get worked up as he hopped from scout player to scout player, positioning them on the court just so, animatedly gesturing back to the rotation players on the sideline seats to pay attention to this guard’s off-ball tactics or that wing’s tendencies fighting over a screen. “Coach Jake” was known for his hyperbolic sense of humor in everyday conversation, but witnessing that in the scout setting was something to behold.
He’s been the most experienced voice among the assistants for Ganot’s whole tenure, save for a couple of months when Norm Parrish had seniority before he took a job back in Utah. And that was before the 2015-16 season even started.
The timing is tough; bringing in a new assistant a few weeks before the fall semester isn’t quite ideal. Ganot has gone much younger (Marlon Stewart, Jabari Trotter) in his last couple of full assistant hires. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with this one.
Ali is, no doubt, an exciting pickup for the Rainbow Warriors. The 5-foot-11 guard might give them a much-needed shot in the arm in the areas of scoring, shooting and playmaking, things it looked like they’d miss with the graduation of Brocke Stepteau.
UH was slow to round out its recruiting class — it went well into the summer with three openings — but recovered well with the additions of Justin Webster, Bernardo da Silva and now Ali.
Until Thursday, the signing class had no college experience save for Junior Madut, a former teammate of Ali’s at Eastern Florida State College. In Ali, UH has a player with Pac-12 experience. He scored 7.3 points on 37.3% shooting in his lone season at WSU, but has a track record of being able to put up much more than that — um, like the time he scored 103 in a high school game in his native Toronto.
Most of his shots were 3-pointers (which he probably will do again at UH, given the offense) and he had a very nice assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4 at WSU. It sounds like it would’ve been a competitive situation for playing time under new coach Kyle Smith, had Ali stayed.
UH awaits word from the NCAA on whether Ali will receive a waiver to play his final season right away in 2019-20. Word around campus is the chances are pretty good that he’ll get it. If not, he’ll have to sit out and play in 2020-21.
There also came word late Thursday night that the four-team field of the season-opening Rainbow Classic was revealed.