Hawaii men’s basketball: Junior Madut playing catch-up with Rainbow Warriors

Junior Madut got up some extra shots after practice on Wednesday. / Photo by Brian McInnis

It’s not as simple as plug and play.

Junior Madut is here, with the Rainbow Warriors, at last, and by all accounts he’s been a fruitful addition to the team over the last few weeks. And while you might spot the lithe 6-foot-5 guard in practice or on the Hawaii bench during games, it’s not likely you’ll see him suited up on the court in the immediate future.

That’s expected to be the case again for UH (10-6, 1-1 Big West) in tonight’s battle against Cal Poly (4-12, 1-1) at 8 p.m., following Rainbow Wahine basketball against UC Riverside. UPDATE: The Rainbow Warriors and Wahine swept their doubleheader, with UH outlasting Cal Poly 65-61 and pouncing on UC Riverside 80-57.


Why? Barring an emergency to the playing rotation, it makes a lot of sense to have Madut acclimatize as a redshirt in Eran Ganot’s system and have two full years to play starting next season, instead of a rushed half-year plus one more.

But Ganot said it’s come up multiple times in staff discussions since Madut’s arrival from Australia over the holiday semester break. The staff has noticed his strong work ethic.

Still …

“You’re away six months,” Ganot said, referring to Madut’s time missed while he waited for a hardship waiver from the NCAA necessary to gain admission. “That would be tough for anybody.”

Madut, for his part, is learning his new teammates on the fly.

“I feel like I’m getting to know the guys a bit more,” he said Wednesday. “Everyone’s kind of interesting on the team, so personality-wise, it’s never boring. On the court also, I’ve been figuring out a bit more about what people like to do and where people like the ball, things like that. It’s just a learning process right now.”

UH’s two Australians already on the roster, Mate Colina and Owen Hulland, helped make him feel at home.

“It definitely helps to have Aussies on the team,” Madut said. “Somehow Aussies always play the same, no matter where they go. So it’s easy for me to read those guys, and easy for them to read me, so it’s good.”

Madut was born in Sudan and moved to Sydney with his family at age 6, becoming Australian right down to the accent. At 18, he headed to the U.S. for college, attending Eastern Florida State for two years. After all that travel — maybe because of it — he comes across as accepting of the possibility that he might have to wait until 2020-21 to officially contribute in Division I.

Already, it’s a relief from what Madut called a “stressful time” back in Melbourne, training alongside pros while he awaited clearance.

“Haven’t really spoken about that emergency playing situation, but as of right now they’re just trying to get me to learn and absorb everything,” said Madut, who averaged 9.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists on a fairly stacked EFSC team that got to the NJCAA quarterfinals last year. “Just be a sponge at practice, try to soak up as much as I can. And yeah, just basically, come and push the guys every single day. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do, bring energy, make everyone around me better.”

There are similarities with UH’s four-out offense and the one run at his junior college, Madut said, but there’s still many nuances to pick up.

In the meantime, Madut has dedicated himself to the ritual of scout team preparation for the UH rotation players, while getting in extra work on his shot and trying to put some added weight to his frame (he’s listed at 175). Ganot said he’s already put on six pounds.

He’s operating on the wing in practice for now, but the team envisions him as a big guard in the backcourt when he’s ready. A guard that can defend, shoot, and make plays, is the thought.

“He’s a good shooter. It’s making the jump to a consistent, elite shooter, because it’ll make him and our team better,” Ganot said.

“There are guys who wholesale changes you have to make. Not with him. It’s little things you have to do over and over again, and I think that’s something we take pride in helping with.”

The coach said Madut likely would have been a rotation player this season had he arrived when expected in the offseason. He was one of three, actually, for which plans changed, along with Ahmed Ali (medical retirement) and Hulland (foot injury).

But now Madut has already been on a team road trip, having accompanied UH on its 1-1 split to open Big West play at Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine last week. It was an inclusion that pleasantly surprised the newcomer.

“He’s operating like he’s gotta be prepared,” Ganot said. “That’s what you have to do anyway, because you can take the foot off the gas naturally if you don’t. I would say that if a guy was redshirting the whole year — be prepared and be ready to go. We’re in a situation, could we use some depth? Sure. But … I do know there’s some other advantages, on and off the court, for him to (wait). A guy like him, you don’t know if you want to waste half a year.”