I have to think that when Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics, the University of Hawaii got the needed catalyst and vision to actually contemplate a team making a trip to the country. Suddenly we could SEE the country on television in a way that many Americans had not seen before. Particularly how big sports is and can be there. Also there was a lot of emphasis on NBA player Yao Ming, his popularity, and the expanding interest in basketball.
For years UH officials have talked about building relations with the Far East as an untapped area for player recruitment. Heard a lot as it related to football and baseball.
Then BYU-Hawaii got the jump on it with their men’s basketball team. They had a Japanese player Yuta Tabuse a few years ago who generated a huge following on the North Shore and became the first Japan-born player to tryout in the NBA. Then this past year Jet Chang from Taiwan was their top player and lead them to the NCAA D-II Championship game.
Former BYUH assistant Brandan Akana was the key recruiter in Asia. He is now at UH. Without him I do not think the basketball team would be in China right now. But credit Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold for having the vision then making the bold step to actually do it and take his team out there. Hawaii just needs that one Chang or Tabuse to play for the Rainbow Warriors, and the pipeline to Asia will open.
And it will open so big that the college basketball powers such as Duke and North Carolina will want in. They are so tired of the maze that involves 3rd parties as far as recruiting players, they may be so inclined to look for the next Yao Ming, or Chang, or Tabuse.
But Hawaii should have first dibs.