Thursday, February 24, 2000
in fast lane
The sophomore guard neverBy Pat Bigold
slows down, on or
off the court
He's unlike anybody who's ever played for the University of Hawaii men's basketball team.
It's got nothing to do with talent. It's just that he's too complicated a study, on and off the court.
But Rainbow sophomore guard Predrag Savovic has become a fan favorite in his uniqueness, one who will be on the Manoa campus until 2002.
"He is just different from any person I ever met," said junior forward Nerijus Puida, a Lithuanian native. "He is all the time in a rush. He never slows down. But he is also a friend you can always go to when you need to talk."
Heading into Saturday's Western Athletic Conference game at San Jose State, Savovic is Hawaii's second leading scorer (12.3 points per game). He's been the fire in the Rainbows' turnaround from a six-win season.
He's been the hero down the stretch in several of the Rainbows' 16 wins and his hyperactivity without the ball has become a major concern to opposing defenses .
"I play hard," he said. "I play sometimes on the edge."
Unlike leading scorer and rebounder Marquette Alexander, whose consistency has made him a candidate for All-Western Athletic Conference honors, Savovic's game occasionally runs off the meter.
There are times when you don't know how you're going to win with Savovic in the lineup, and times when you don't know how you're going to do it without him.
"Sometimes, you have to get him to slow down a little bit and control it," said Hawaii head coach Riley Wallace. "But it's much easier to coach a guy where you have to pull him back a little bit than it is to get somebody to play hard."
Savovic's backcourt mate, point guard Johnny White, calls him "The Tasmanian Devil'' and an overachiever who wants to win every game.
On the court, Savovic is tough, wild-eyed, impulsive, unyielding, passionate and somewhat of a bull in a china shop.
There was a game in which he accidentally elbowed an opponent who'd come too close from behind, knocking him to the floor. Savovic hovered over the fallen player, anxious to know he if he was OK.
"I would never hurt anybody because I know how I feel," said the 23-year-old native of Montenegro.
He sure does.
One week, Savovic's style of play earned him three elbows in the face.
"He's going to get elbows because he plays all over the place and sticks his nose in there," said Wallace. "He's very aggressive and plays the game the way it's supposed to be played: all-out."
When Savovic drives for the hoop, there are no pirouettes, no extended hang time.
"He's fearless,'' said Wallace. "He plays with abandon. If you could get that from the other guys, that would be good."
He annoys some opponents and wins the respect of others. Even those who've gotten the best of him.
"He doesn't back down and I can only respect people like that," said Fresno State's Courtney Alexander, who was Savovic's assignment in an 85-77 loss at the Stan Sheriff Center on Feb. 5.
Alexander exploded for 11 points in the last 3:52 to rally Fresno State from a 73-69 deficit.
When Savovic fouled out in the loss to Tulsa here on Feb. 17 with about 10 minutes to go in the second half, Golden Hurricane players cheered his departure.
"He's kind of wild on the court but he just wants to win -- he's a warrior," said UH teammate Geremy Robinson.
Other Rainbow teammates attest to the fact that Savovic's offcourt personality reflects his fifth-gear oncourt play.
"He never gets tired but he can tire you out," said roommate Todd Fields, a reserve 7-foot center. "He's like a machine sometimes because he doesn't require much sleep."
Savovic is one of the top academics on the Rainbows team and his appetite for learning is voracious.
"I like to surf (the internet) to see what info I can find, what new technology there is, what's going on in the market," he said.
"It's not all basketball. Life is just fun, interesting. I like to learn."
Ostler and Fields said Savovic's perpetual motion sometimes leaves them in the lurch.
"He'll say, let's go somewhere, and you'll look over and he'll be gone already," said Ostler.
Ka Leo O Hawaii