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“Water polo All-American” joins Hawaii hoops team


Nobody really knows what to expect from Hawaii basketball this season. The Warriors are joining the suddenly loaded Big West while still struggling to build a contender under third-year head coach Gib Arnold. The team has a solid inside presence, with senior center Vander Joaquim suiting up beside Nebraska transfer Christian Standhardinger, but the rest of the untested lineup is very much in doubt.

One last-minute addition to the team should draw attention. Two-sport star Aaron Valdes filed his paperwork to join the Hawaii program this week, getting in just under the wire for this season. Usually when we think of a two-sport star, we’re conditioned to imagine a basketball/football or basketball/baseball hybrid, maybe even hoops/track and field. To my knowledge, Valdes is the first DI player to be lured onto the hardcourt from the swimming pool.

He comes from a water polo family,” Arnold told the Honolulu Star-Adversiter. “His brothers played, and his dad was a coach. As he grew older he began spending more and more time on the court rather than in the pool. Even though he was a water polo All-American, he fell in love with basketball.”

Valdes is 6'5", and his time in the pool will likely give him an early edge in conditioning. He’s already impressed his new teammates with his bounce, showing off a 38-inch vertical and a nose for the ball in early workouts.

“I like to drive and dunk, get open, get my teammates open and facilitate a lot,” Valdes told Warrior Insider. “I just like the team concept.”

If Arnold is able to make the Warriors a contender alongside current and future Big West members like SDSU, Boise State and The Beach, it will be in part because of his ability to find and develop overlooked players like Valdes. Check out Valdes’ version of a mixtape.

(photo: Warrior Insider)