Hometown: Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
High School: American Heritage School
Paora Winitana Player Preview
When it comes to building out the back end of a roster and filling it with walk ons, so often the importance of their impact to the program can be overlooked. Walk on players have a crucial role in the program. Even more importantly, they are paying their own way through this. It is incredibly hard to be a walk on, so when you find good ones that can help elevate your program, it can really help your team as you are seeking success. BYU has found someone like that in Paora Winitana.
It is really easy to see Paora and see why he was so successful in high school. At 6-5, 242 pounds, he absolutely dominated his opponents at American Heritage School in American Fork to the tune of 25 points and 15.5 rebounds per game his senior year. Trust me, I witnessed him do this multiple times, specifically a 45 point, 20 rebound performance against my team. This was despite game planning specifically to try and keep him off his spots. Obviously, it didn’t work — at all.
He is a very large, very physical player with point guard skills. He knows how to use his body and is able to maneuver his way into his preferred spots on the floor. One very underrated part of his game is his ability to look for his teammates. His junior year of high school, he was the third best player on his team. He was able to get those guys to their spots and get them their shots, while still being really smart about picking his time to get shots.
He is extremely well coached. He played two years for an excellent coach, Jake Dastrup, and his senior year he played for his dad, also named Paora. His dad is also a good coach and it showed in the ways he tried to use his son to the benefit of the team, and not just trying to pad his own son’s stats. Due to this, Paora frequently makes the right reads. He is extremely unselfish and is looking to make the right play. Obviously his senior year, that meant taking more of an scoring role than in the two previous seasons, but he was always capable of performing at a high level.
With this skill set, he is really capable of helping BYU improve. He has the size and strength to bang with the bigs and skilled enough to play with the guards. This means that during practice Coach Pope can use him as the opponent’s best player. He also is so smart that he will be able to understand and perform adequately in this role despite it changing every single practice.
He also has an excellent bloodline. His father played professionally in New Zealand as well as making appearances on the New Zealand national team including the 2004 Athens Olympics.
2021-2022 Expectations: End of Bench
Ultimately, Paora really can help the Cougars this season and beyond. It will be interesting to see his development as he gets into Division 1 conditioning and working with this coaching staff every single day. My assistant coach said he anticipates Paora finding his way onto the court after Paora returns from his mission he is anticipated to take after this season. He is skilled enough to do that and if he works hard, he will be an asset for years to come.