IRVINE, Calif. – The Big West Conference announced its men’s basketball preseason media poll with the University of Hawai’i picked to finished in fifth place. Meanwhile, junior forward Isaac Fotu was selected to the six-player preseason all-conference team.
Defending regular-season champion UC Irvine was tabbed the favorite to win the 2014-15 title. The Anteaters received received 20 of a possible 26 first-place votes for 221 points. UC Santa Barbara finished second in the poll with 195 points and garnered a pair of first-place votes, while Long Beach State placed third with 180 points and three first-place votes. CSUN, which reached the Big West Tournament championship game last season, was slotted in fourth place with 165 points. UH rounded out the top five with 119 points.
Cal Poly, which last season became the first No. 7 seed to win the Big West Tournament championship, and went on to earn an NCAA Tournament first round victory, was sixth in the poll with 109 points. Closing out the voting were UC Davis in seventh (79 points), Cal State Fullerton in eighth (64) and UC Riverside in ninth (38).
The Rainbow Warriors, under the direction of fifth-year head coach Gib Arnold, return eight letterwinners and three redshirt players from last year’s squad that finished 20-11 overall and in fourth place (9-7) in its second season in the Big West. A group of five talented newcomers also join this year’s squad.
“With six Big West teams returning four or more starters laden with seniors, and with us returning two starters with only one senior, I understand the poll,” Arnold said. “I do, however believe the two returning starters we have in Garrett (Nevels) and Isaac (Fotu) are two of the best players in the conference. We had our best recruiting class in five years and we have a number of talented and athletic young returning players ready to make an impact. I believe we have the makings of a very exciting and special team. Our goal is to exceed expectations and bring a Big West championship home to Hawai’i where it belongs”
Fotu garnered preseason accolades from the Big West after a pair of outstanding campaigns in his first two seasons at UH. After being named the Big West Co-Freshman of the Year in 2012-13, he followed up with a sophomore season that garnered first-team all-conference and second-team all-region accolades. Last year, the native of Torbay, Auckland, New Zealand averaged 14.9 ppg and 6.1 rpg, while ranking second in the Big West and 17th in the NCAA in field goal percentage (.584). This past summer, Fotu was a key member of the New Zealand national squad that advanced to the knockout stage of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
“It’s a much deserved all-conference selection,” Arnold said. “He is a great kid, great student, and great player. We couldn’t ask for a better representative for the University of Hawai’i. I believe he is not only the best player in the conference but one of the best in the nation.”
Joining Fotu on the six-player preseason all-conference team were Mike Caffey (Long Beach State), Corey Hawkins (UC Davis), Stephen Maxwell (CSUN), Mamadou Ndiaye (UC Irvine) and Alan Williams (UCSB). Four of the six players were 2013-14 All-Big West First Team recipients.
UH will host an exhibition game versus Hawai’i Pacific on Nov. 6 before officially opening the 2014-15 regular season against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday, Nov. 14 in the 50th Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic.
2014-15 Big West Preseason Media Poll
1. UC Irvine (20) – 221 points
2. UC Santa Barbara (2) – 195
3. Long Beach State (3) -180
4. Cal State Northridge (1) – 165
5. Hawai’i – 119
6. Cal Poly – 109
7. UC Davis – 79
8. Cal State Fullerton – 64
9. UC Riverside – 38
( ) First-place votes
Preseason Media All-Conference Team
Mike Caffey, G, Long Beach State
Isaac Fotu, F, Hawai’i
Corey Hawkins, G, UC Davis
Stephen Maxwell, F, CSUN
Mamadou Ndiaye UC Irvine
Alan Williams, F, UCSB