JJ Mandaquit will never forget his first offer.
The University of Portland offered the ‘Iolani freshman a basketball scholarship on Sunday during his tour of the campus. Mandaquit has become a fixture on a renowned Rose City Rebels club program in the past six months. He was at the invite-only PT-40 Showcase in Portland on Saturday when the Pilots connected with the point guard.
“I like how it’s not the biggest campus. Everybody’s kind of like a family. Small, but the buildings are super nice. The people are super nice,” Mandaquit said on Monday.
The PT-40 event came on the heels of a Pangos Frosh Camp held two weeks ago, where Mandaquit earned top honors. At the PT-40, the top 40 players from Oregon and Washington in grades nine through 12 competed.
“One of the (Portland) assistant coaches was at the showcase. Through Rose City and the director of the camp, they set up a tour for us at the University of Portland, me and my auntie,” Mandaquit said. “They showed us around campus, the athletic facilities. Then at the end, I was able to talk to coach (Shantay Legans) and that’s when he said he would like to offer me a scholarship.”
Mandaquit, originally from Hilo, has a 3.65 grade-point average.
Legans is in his first year as the Pilots head coach, following the dismissal of former coach Terry Porter. Portland plays in the West Coast Conference, where national powerhouse Gonzaga resides. The domino effect within the WCC and neighboring D-I programs is a probability, but Mandaquit is simply grateful — and working diligently.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. I feel like I deserve it with all the hard work I put in. It’s a blessing, definitely a blessing,” the 6-footer said. “My dad (Jason), we’re just happy. I know that I have to continue to work hard. I’m a freshman and a lot of things can happen.”
Connecting with the Rose City Rebels via the Las Vegas Stars was a big move.
“Shout out to the Rebels organization, treating me like family. And my teammates and coaches. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. My family for their love and support. Coach Darin (Yap) of Tactical Strength. Coach Dean (Shimamoto), getting my shot right.”
This is Mandaquit’s second offer. He received his first from D-II Chaminade earlier this year.
Mandaquit joins sophomore guard Aaron Claytor as Raiders who have D-I college offers. Claytor has an offer from North Carolina A&T after a standout summer with the San Francisco Rebels on the Adidas circuit.
The last time ‘Iolani had two D-I prospects on the same squad was 2004, when Derrick Low (Washington State) and Bobby Nash (Hawaii) teamed up.
The upcoming season appears to be promising for the ‘Iolani Raiders, who also have a high-flying finisher and scorer in 6-1 senior guard Jack Jones. Pitching ace Zach Tenn is a key role player on the hardwood for coach Ryan Hirata‘s team.