Samuta Avea is desperate to bring the Hawaii basketball team to Laie

Nov.18 – University of Hawaii basketball player Samuta Avea grew up on the North Shore of Oahu with an ambitious basketball dream.

University of Hawaii basketball player Samuta Avea grew up on the North Shore of Oahu with an ambitious basketball dream.

“I tried to get on every basketball court in this area,” Avea said.

That meant piloting his jump shot through the trade winds at Laie Park, getting his first dunk at Kahuku District Park, and morning practice at Brigham Young-Hawaii’s Cannon Activities Center.

Avea returns to the BYUH campus when UH and Hawaii Pacific meet in Cannon Saturday noon.

“It’s going to be really cool to be where it all began,” said Avea, a 6-foot-6 senior winger. “I’m just happy to have the guys there too, just to share the experience with them.”

Coach Eran Ganot said the game is part of a plan to connect with different communities in the state. During the summer, the Bows set up a clinic on Kauai. Post player Kamaka Hepa was raised in Alaska, but his father is from Kauai.

“The islands here are enormous,” said Ganot. “They offer different perspectives, also on this island. Now we can take our boys to the North Shore. You enjoyed Kauai. It’s a celebration of the island, this great game and the community. Hand back. What’s better than that?”

Ganot said the availability of dates has resulted in the Bows playing at Cannon on Saturday and the Patty Mills North Shore Classic next week. Ganot said both events would be scheduled at the same time. “That’s how it worked,” Ganot said of Saturday’s meeting. “It could have been anytime. The way the schedule was laid out, the way the openings were for our schedule and our opponents’ and when we could go there, that’s how it played out.”

Avea’s family has ties to BYUH. The Mormon Church owns both BYUH and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Many BYUH students are employed by PCC. For nearly two decades through 2002, Avea’s father, Chief Sielu Avea, was the preeminent fire knife performer and host of the Samoan Village at the PCC. The elder Avea was the first world champion fire knife. He now hosts Chief’s Luau, a popular Polynesian show on Oahu. Samuta Avea often worked as a drummer on his father’s shows.

Avea recalled attending BYUH basketball games in Cannon. “I was always there,” he said. “I supported. I snuck in and tried to get into the games.”

In 2016, applications for Steph Curry’s basketball camp in Cannon were filled out.

But a year later, BYUH dropped its athletic program, ending a fan base that enthusiastically supported teams in fights in NAIA District 29 and Division II.

Ganot, a basketball historian, knew of the North Shore’s “rabid fan base, a knowledgeable fan base, a great fan base. All of us who have been to the island know their amazing fans and amazing people. To take our group over there is really exciting.”

Of the homecoming, Avea said, “It’s huge. It is hard to explain. I’m curious how the turnout will be. I’ve spoken to a lot of people and a lot of people are looking forward to watching. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be out there and play basketball in front of my people.”