Basketball: Vulcans forecasted to finish near back of pack

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Kupaa Fernandez, left, is the leading returner scorer and rebounder for UH-Hilo, which was selected to finish eight Wednesday in the Pacific West Conference coaches' preseason poll.

The picks are in, and though they are not flattering, they’re equally nonbinding.

UH-Hilo’s men’s basketball team was selected to finish eighth in Wednesday’s coaches’ preseason Pacific West Conference poll, the same spot the Vulcans finished last season, when they went 10-12.

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UHH, which opens the season Oct. 15 at Concordia, Oregon, needs to replace leading scorers James Griffin and Larry Bush as coach GE Coleman enters his seventh season.

Kupaa Harrison, a versatile 6-foot-5 junior forward, is the Vuls’ leading returning scorer and rebounder, while senior Jordan Graves started all 26 games last season.

No UHH players were named to the preseason all-conference team, but Coleman brought in six transfers, including Elishja Duplechan, a 5-11 guard formerly of Division I Nebraska-Omaha.

Concordia-Irvine, the 2019 conference runner-up, was picked to win its first PacWest title, and Azusa Pacific received three first-place votes, with the Cougars’ Selom Mawugbe receiving preseason player of the year after earning defensive player of the year last season. Chaminade was voted to finish third in the 12-team league.

In Tuesday’s women’s poll, the Vulcans were picked 10th.

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Injury-ravaged UHH finished 5-17 last season and returns junior forward/center Allie Navarette, an All-West Region second team selection last season who set single-season records for points scored (516), rebounds (263), free throws made (170), free throws attempts (214), field goals (162) and field goals attempts (410).

Defending NCAA West Region champion Azusa Pacific was picked as the conference favorite, and the Cougars’ Savanna Hanson was voted as the player of the year. Defending conference champion Hawaii Pacific was tabbed as runner-up.

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