Friday, March 14, 2003
AkanaAfter a track record of sustained excellence that has included a lot of wins and postseason play in high school, college and now the coaching ranks, one might think Brandyn Akana takes success for granted.
The Brigham Young-Hawaii assistant
has enjoyed success with
the Seasiders as a player, too
By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin
After all, the second-year Brigham Young-Hawaii assistant basketball coach is set to make his second straight trip to the NCAA Division II tournament with the Seasiders, who host the eight-team West Regional starting today and finishing Monday.
>> Went on church mission from 1995 to '98
>> Averaged 16.3 points per game his senior season, helping the Seasiders to the NAIA tournament
>> In the school's top 10 in nine statistical categories, including No. 2 in career free-throw percentage
>> Has coached at the Pre-NBA Draft Camp and Pete Newell's Big Man Camp
>> Brother Jarinn is an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks
>> Married to former Hawaii volleyball player Joselyn Robbins
And this comes after three trips to the NAIA tournament over four seasons as a BYUH player in the mid-'90s, and, before that, leading tiny Molokai High School to the state tournament twice.
But Akana, 28, takes nothing for granted -- especially when it comes to hoops, which has treated him really well and is his passion.
"It's sort of been a blessing," Akana said. "When I was playing we were successful. Now (as a coach), it's been two-for-two (in postseason berths). And that's pretty good. There's individuals out there that don't ever get the chance to play in tournaments. I've enjoyed every moment of it."
With Akana's help, this year's Seasiders (19-3) are the top-ranked team in the West Region and No. 12 nationally -- the highest ranking ever for the program. The Pacific West Conference champion after finishing with a 13-2 league mark, BYUH is set to play a first-round game against eighth seed Cal State Bakersfield tonight at Laie.
A season ago, Akana's first as a full-time coach, the Seasiders were PacWest co-champs at 10-5 in the conference and 19-10 overall, but they got drubbed by 25 points in a first-round loss to Seattle Pacific.
"A lot of those kids from last year are on the team this year," Akana said. "(For most) it was their first time (in the postseason) and they learned that this is the NCAA tournament, the best of the best. ... Now we know what's out there. ... If we play how we play, how we should play, I don't think anyone can touch us."
It hasn't been long since Akana starred for the Seasiders; his senior season was 1997-98, during which he averaged more than 16 points per game. He believes the excitement and energy he infuses now, still at a relatively young age, are among his biggest contributions. "I'm young, and I'm learning at the same time and helping the young players," he said.
Akana regularly participates in team workouts, and head coach Ken Wagner -- whom he also played for -- has entrusted him with scheduling, recruiting and scouting in his short time as top assistant.
"He's a winner," Wagner said of Akana. "He really works hard, is skilled at what he does and he's been a real big part (of the recent success). Plus, some of us are getting old and grouchy and it's nice to have a young guy in here who can handle things."
Before going on a two-year mission, senior center Scott Salisbury was Akana's teammate in his first year in 1998.
WARREN BYBEE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
"What he has helped me with most is the love of the game," Salisbury said. "He puts everything into perspective and makes sure we know that the most important thing is to have fun."
Akana says that his love of basketball came in large part from his older brother Jarinn, also a former player at BYUH and then Hawaii, and currently an assistant coach with the NBA's Denver Nuggets. "He loved it, so I loved it," Brandyn explained. "Basketball has done so much for us; for us it's the thing to do."
There are eight brothers and two sisters in the family, but other than Brandyn and Jarinn, only youngest brother Trenson has a similar affection for basketball. Trenson Akana is redshirting at BYUH and will have four years to play once he returns from his mission.
Brandyn Akana admits to aspirations of being a head coach someday, but is very content with his present situation for now. He is once again contributing to the program he cares for most, learning from a man he played for and considers a great coach, and continuing to enjoy success.
Though he is unsure of where life will take him in the distant future, what appears certain is that it will involve basketball, and Akana's winning reputation will follow him there.
"Sometimes I think about opportunities maybe in the NBA, maybe Division I," Akana said. "There's a lot out there, but I'm going to take my time. It's a life for me -- basketball has treated me great."
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