Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, January 1, 2000

Rainbows show
promise for Y2K

WELCOME to the 21st Century and a Brave New Whirl for the University of Hawaii men's basketball team.

If football Rainbows dominated the sports news last year - OK, it was just one day ago - maybe 2000 will be the Year of the Basketball 'Bows.

They're enjoying a turnaround season of their own as well with an 11-2 start after, winning their sixth Rainbow Classic with victories over Bradley, Colorado and Oregon. All three victories came down to the last possession.

The Rainbows are hoping that it will carry over into a demanding Western Athletic Conference season that begins next Saturday at Texas-El Paso.

After last season's 6-20 finish, no wonder everyone's optimistic, including Coach Riley Wallace.

Wallace will need to come up with more stratagems than a bounce-pass through Marquette Alexander's legs for the winning basket by Nerijus Puida as he did in the victory over Bradley, or getting ejected on two technicals to spur his team in the win over Colorado.

OK, so they were flukey happenings. But who's arguing with success?

And who can argue about the success of the basketball 'Bows so far?

After rather desultory performances prior to their showing in the Rainbow Classic, the 'Bows really stepped up their game big time.

TROY Ostler, maybe the most mobile big man ever to wear a UH uniform, literally and figuratively stood tall in coming of age in the tournament.

"He can shoot it, he can hit that jumper," Wallace said about the 6-foot-10 Ostler.

And it looks as though the real Pedrag Savovic, who everyone was eagerly awaiting as he sat out his transfer year on the bench last season, has finally shown up.

Someone who plays with his heart on his sleeve, Savovic seemed tentative, prone to hasty turnovers in games prior to the Rainbow Classic.

"I've been sitting out for three years," Savovic, explaining his rusty start.

"He gets emotional, and wants to carry the team on his back," Wallace said.

"He has been struggling. But just wait and be patient," Wallace kept telling anyone who would listen. Patience paid off for Rainbow fans.

The 6-foot-6 native Yugoslav hit all his clutch free throws and 3-pointers to earn MVP honors.

"Savo" went 25-for-30 at the foul line in the tournament, including the title-winning pair in the 76-74 over the Oregon.

IT'S not for nothing Savovic wears jersey No. 1, although there hasn't been anything deeply significant about it.

"I just wear it because (coach) Bob Nash gave it to me," said Savovic with, well, savoire-faire, you might say.

"He loves the game, he loves to play," Wallace said about his Yugoslav import, who has two more years of eligibility after this season.

Wallace feels his Rainbows will be ready for the WAC wars, unlike last year when they went 3-11 in conference play and failed to make the postseason playoffs.

The WAC's going to be really tough," said Savovic, who saw limited playing time as a freshman at Alabama-Birmingham two years ago.

"It (the Rainbow Classic) helps because we played a lot of great teams. We can take that into the WAC."

"We have so much chemistry on this team. It'll be hard to break our team down," added Ostler.

Like I said, a Brave New Whirl for the basketball 'Bows, who hope there will be no glitches for them in Y2K.

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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