Donovan interviews UNLV assistant


POSTED: Thursday, March 18, 2010

Add one more name to the list of Hawaii basketball coaching candidates interviewed by UH athletic director Jim Donovan and his advisory committee in Los Angeles.

UNLV assistant Lew Hill was invited, sources said, becoming the seventh known applicant to make his case in person, and fourth in L.A during Donovan's two-day stay there.

Hill, a new name among a pool of candidates that continues to grow, had to hustle back to his team. The Runnin' Rebels (25-8) play their NCAA Tournament first-round game vs. Northern Iowa at Oklahoma City today.

There is an open-ended application window, meaning more candidates have trickled in. Donovan said the number reached “;45 to 50.”; The initial count was about 30.

“;We're still moving as quickly as possible,”; said Donovan, who would not speak about any particular candidates. “;We're trying to balance speed with making sure we have vetted all qualified candidates.”;

UH's goal remains to give the new coach as much time as possible to recruit before the April 14 letter-of-intent date.

A source said Donovan is expected to depart Los Angeles this morning.

Southern Miss associate head coach Steve Barnes, Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti, and Colorado associate head coach Steve McClain were the other known interviewees on the trip.

Hill is the only one of that crop without any Division I coaching experience.

; The previously interviewed candidates are Saint Mary's associate head coach Kyle Smith, former USC assistant coach Gib Arnold, and Chaminade coach Matt Mahar.

A sixth-year assistant with UNLV, Hill was a point guard at San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College — the same school former UH coach Bob Nash played before transferring to UH — before enjoying an All-Missouri Valley Conference season at Wichita State.

His previous stops as an assistant included Southeast Missouri State, East Carolina, and Texas A&M.

Hill had an incident in February 2009 in which he reportedly had chest pains after an overtime loss to San Diego State. He was taken out of the arena on a stretcher and to a hospital, but recovered quickly and was released after a few days.

He was part of the Rebels staff that oversaw the 77-53 dismantling of Hawaii in the semifinals of the inaugural Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in December.

Ji on the go?

UH will likely be down another frontcourt player next season. Junior-to-be Ji Xiang said yesterday there was a “;high possibility”; he was not returning for his final two years as a Rainbow Warrior.

If he leaves — the determining factor being if he graduates this summer — UH will have at least six scholarships to hand out for next season.

Ji, a communications major from Zhengzhou, China, averaged 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 19 appearances last season.

He said he is slated to complete his degree over the summer, and plans to go back to China once he graduates. Looking into a pro career there is a possibility.

“;I'm leaving not because of the coach (situation),”; the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Ji said. “;I've been in America for a while, I learned a lot here, but I think probably it's the time for me to go back. I'm not 100 percent. Seventy-five percent (sure).”;

He was instantly a fan favorite off the bench, drawing ovations late in games from the Stan Sheriff Center faithful.

He was one of Bob Nash's first recruits after becoming head coach for the 2007-08 season. But an injury forced Ji to redshirt his first year at Manoa.

“;I feel pretty bad because we came in at the same time,”; Ji said of Nash. “;He's a really, really nice guy to us. As a person I really like him. I feel bad for him to get fired. (But my decision is) no matter he here or stay.”;