Akana’s career moves off the floor
RENO, Nev. » Jarinn Akana has fond memories of being on the court for the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
It was back in 1994 in Salt Lake City that the guard from Molokai helped Hawaii pull off a historic win over Brigham Young in the championship game, giving the Rainbow Warriors their first conference title.
Akana's view of the game is a bit different these days, watching the action from courtside as a scout with the NBA's Denver Nuggets.
Akana attended the first two days of this week's WAC tournament at the Lawlor Events Center to take a look at some of the league's top talent. He then planned to head to Dallas for today's final of the Big 12 tournament.
Scouting is a new role for Akana, in his fifth year with the Nuggets, after working as an assistant coach. He moved into the personnel department when George Karl was hired as head coach and is enjoying his new job, which has him traveling the country evaluating college talent and watching other NBA players the team might be interested in acquiring.
"I moved over to scouting and working with the front office, which is really, really interesting," Akana said between games on Thursday. "I've learned a lot, the other side of basketball. There's coaching and then basketball operations in the front office.
"I've had a good chance to see how things go with the trades, the draft, personnel stuff. For me, it's opening up a whole new side of basketball."
Akana played for UH for two seasons and was named a team captain and the Rainbows' most inspirational player in 1994.
That squad began the season 0-4 and finished the regular season at 15-14. The 'Bows then reeled off three wins at the WAC tournament, capped by a 73-66 win over BYU. The season ended with a 92-78 loss to Syracuse in the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 22 years.
"It's a totally different league now, but the idea's the same," he said. "The tournament's an exciting time -- it's win or go home."
Akana spent much of his stay in Reno scribbling notes on players such as junior forwards Nick Fazekas of Nevada and Paul Millsap of Louisiana Tech, both of whom could enter the NBA Draft this year.
He also wanted to take a look at Hawaii forward Julian Sensley and watched as the Rainbows were eliminated from the tournament with a heartbreaking loss to New Mexico State in the quarterfinals.
Akana thinks the 6-foot-9 senior who led UH in scoring and earned first-team All-WAC honors this season, will get a look from the pros after the season.
"He's always been skilled," Akana said. "He's got good size, he shoots the ball, he can put it on the floor, he can pass it. So those kind of guys with that kind of talent, you always have to keep an eye out for those guys."
As Akana got comfortable in his new role with the Nuggets, he also enjoyed following the exploits of former Molokai schoolmate Kimo von Oelhoffen, a defensive tackle with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Very shy guy, not very talkative, and what he's done is very hard to do," Akana said. "I give him credit and I love the guy for that. I haven't talked to him in a while, but I've got to get in touch with him.
"We've been fortunate," he added. "I've definitely been blessed to be able to get to this level, and it just goes to prove you can do it no matter where you come from, even from Molokai. There's some things you have to do to get breaks here or there, but you have to put yourself in a position to get an opportunity. And once it comes, make the best of it."