Winning basketball teams honored by University of Hawaii, governor

Dozens of fans were on hand Monday to celebrate the University of Hawaii men’s and women’s basketball teams’ recent success.

A rally took place at UH Manoa’s Campus Center Courtyard, with the pep band and cheer squad.

Each team earned Big West Conference titles this season and automatic berths to the NCAA tournament.

The 14th-seeded Wahine fell to nationally ranked UCLA in the first round, while the 13th-seeded Warriors were eliminated in the second round by 5th-seeded Maryland.

“(I’m) just appreciative of both these teams for the great moments, and smiles, and inspiration they provided to not just the fan base, but to myself, to our coaches, unbelievable,” said men’s basketball head coach Eran Ganot. “For our team, with the adversity we’ve dealt with this year and over the last couple of years to come, not just survive it, but to put together 1) most wins in school history, 2) regular season championship, 3) tournament championship, 4) in-state tournament appearance, and 5) obviously the first NCAA tournament win in school history, so give these guys a hand, please.”

Both coaches attributed their teams’ success to unwavering support from school leadership, the student body, including the band and cheer squad, and the community. They also thanked each other.

“Very seldom, I’m going to say, do a men’s and women’s program work so well with each other, and to have a counterpart that’s so supportive of my program, my young ladies,” said women’s basketball head coach Laura Beeman. “We share ideas, we share facilities, but we share the common goal of what we represent, which is not only the University of Hawaii but the state of Hawaii.”

Both coaches also promised more to come, even though the university is awaiting an appeal to a men’s basketball post-season ban from the NCAA’s committee on infractions.

Returning starters Stefan Jankovic, Stefan Jovanovic, Aaron Valdes, and Mike Thomas have the option to leave the program without penalty. They have yet to announce their decisions.

“What we saw that could happen this year, we have to build on,” Ganot said. “This athletic department, every team here, you guys, the support, the community, we have to build off this and understand that there’s even more special things on the horizon. This is just the start.”

“Being a student athlete is not an easy job, and it is a job. You’re going to school full-time, you’re a full-time athlete, you’re doing a lot of things in the community, and this group of young ladies absolutely represents the state with great pride, great dignity, and I could not be more proud of their accomplishments and what they do,” Beeman said.

Later Monday afternoon, Gov. David Ige honored both teams with a special proclamation at the State Capitol.

He proclaimed March 28, 2016 to be University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine and Warriors Basketball Day “as a tribute to the coaches and the athletes. Our student-athletes really are students and they are athletes, and I wanted to congratulate all of you for also performing in the classroom, because that’s important,” he said.

Lawmakers also presented the teams with certificates of appreciation.

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