Saturday, October 23, 1999
Savovic rarin to go
The sophomore guardBy Pat Bigold
hopes to rev up the
Hawaii basketball team
Predrag Savovic used to hit the accelerator on European highways.
He's been on Germany's Autobahn, where speeds can exceed 100 mph.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore guard from Serbia said it felt comfortable.
After all, that's how he plays basketball - in the fast lane.
"Maybe sometimes I overpower myself," said Savovic. "I go even to extremes sometimes."
But that comes with the package. Savovic brings to the Rainbows what his NCAA Summer League coach, Artie Wilson, called, "a tremendous will to win."
"He'll do whatever it takes to get it done," said Wilson. "Tug on your shirt, go over you - there's a little bit of Larry Bird in him."
Team captain Marquette Alexander said, "He'll rip your arm off - he's a winner."
Wilson predicted Savovic's energy and passion will be infectious with teammates and fans alike.
"He's charismatic and he'll become a quick favorite at the Stan Sheriff Center," said Wilson, who also does color commentary on UH basketball telecasts.
Hawaii head coach Riley Wallace knows he has lightning on his hands with Savovic. But he can handle it.
"Savo doesn't know anything but 110 percent," said Wallace. "He has that hustle but he's very unselfish with it. He'll shoot the ball but he creates things for others. He's got a lot to learn defensively. But anybody who hustles like that, you can teach him defense."
One thing the Rainbows lacked last year was an energizer in the backcourt, someone to lead a furious pace throughout the game. Savovic fills that prescription.
His impact upon the Rainbows is expected to be immediate. Western Athletic Conference writers have voted him preseason co-Newcomer of the Year.
But Savovic agrees with his coaches. who say he doesn't always make the best use of his energy.
"Coach wants to pull me in the right direction so that all my energy I put in the right place, not waste it," said Savovic. "There were one or two coaches in my career in Europe who did that and they had great results."
Savovic played for the Belgrade Partisan team, which won the first division Yugoslavian co-championship in 1993-94, and he averaged 11 points a game for Iva Zorka Pharm in the Korac Cup just before he came to the United States.
Savovic transferred from Alabama-Birmingham after his freshman year. He missed most of the 1997-98 season due to injury.
Enrolling at Hawaii, he had to sit a season to become eligible. He was at every one of the 1998-99 games at the Stan Sheriff Center and he said it made him very uneasy to watch was going on.
"The 'Bows losing, I take as my personal loss," he said of the 6-20 season. "I just take losing very personal."
The 24-year-old Savovic could be paired in the backcourt with second-year starting point guard Johnny White when the nonconference season begins on Nov. 7 at home against the Northwest All-Stars.
"He's not a pure shooter but he's a good shooter," said Wallace. "He's not a great jumper but he can be a good rebounder, he's got quickness for his size, and he likes to run all day."
Savovic said he is impressed with the talent level of guards like Lane O'Connor, Nerijus Puida, Mike McIntye, Geremy Robinson, Carl English and White, and he thinks frontcourt players like team captain Marquette Alexander, Troy Ostler, Phil Martin, and 7-footer Todd Fields will be able to convert what he brings inside on the drive.
"I'm not saying we will be in the NCAA tournament, but I like the environment I'm playing in this season, and I like the guys on this team," he said.
He often loads as many as 10 of his teammates into a small 1983 pickup truck and ferries them off to the beach.
"Most of the time, we are all together," he said. "But it was different last year. Guys hung out by themselves."
Savovic's younger brother, Slobodan, is in a more visible program. He plays guard for Ohio State, which made it to the Final Four last March.
"I wanted to go there to see him but couldn't," said Savovic. The time of the Final Four was even more stressful for the brothers because NATO had just begun its bombings of their home turf.
They stay in touch and encourage each other, but have had little chance to see each other.
Savovic, whose parents are still living in Herceg-Novi in the Yugoslavian republic of Montenegro, is channeling his homesickness into a desire to win.
Wallace ultimately expects one thing of him this season, and Savovic said he'll have no problem supplying it.
"He wants some heart and I can give him that," said Wallace.