Star-Bulletin Sports


Akana on a high with Nuggets

By Cindy Luis

Fame is fleeting.

When Haim Shimonovich walked into Gym II last week and saw Predrag Savovic working out against "an old guy," the center for the Rainbow basketball team asked, "Who's that?"

"One of our former players who's now with the Denver Nuggets," said associate head coach Bob Nash.

The "old guy" was 32-year-old Jarinn Akana, who joined the NBA team in August as their director of player development and Asia scout. The move to the Mile High City has been good for the Molokai High School graduate, who spent the previous season with the Dallas Mavericks as the assistant to player development director/assistant coach Kiki Vandeweghe.

When Vandeweghe took the job as the Nuggets' general manager in August, he asked Akana to join him in the Denver front office. The two have worked together for eight years at Pete Newell's Big Man's Camp and for three years at Vandeweghe's NBA summer camp in Los Angeles.

"I like Denver," said Akana, a member of Hawaii's 1994 Western Athletic Conference championship team. "Aside from the losses (the Nuggets finished 27-55 this season), it's been a great experience.

"I get to go to Asia and scout, I've been to Japan and China. It's the NBA, a whole new level. Everything is first class. You can only dream about something like this, learning the organization side of the NBA.

"For now, I'm happy."

Akana has enjoyed coming back to Hawaii, visiting with his father, who flew over from Molokai. Akana stayed with his brother Brandyn, Brandyn's wife, former Wahine volleyball player Joselyn Robins, and their two young daughters.

The trip wasn't planned. Akana said Hawaii coach Riley Wallace asked him to come and work with Savovic.

Akana also worked out with returning Rainbow guard Carl English, who is from Patrick's Cove, Newfoundland, a town with a population of 50.

"I never thought I'd meet someone from a place smaller than Molokai," said Akana.

He's traded his surfboard for a snowboard and "I'll tell you this, the landing is a lot harder in snowboarding," said Akana.

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