Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, December 2, 2001



‘Bows’ improvement
is job 1

Stung by an imperfect record,
Hawaii wants to get better

By Cindy Luis

"One (o'clock) until it's done."

That was Riley Wallace's comment on how long yesterday's practice would run. The Hawaii basketball team normally practices for three hours, meaning yesterday's 1 p.m. session should have ended at 4 p.m.

The final team cheer was shouted at 3:59, but Wallace had them shoot free throws until they made at least 10 in a row.

The coach gave them 10 minutes to complete the task, but the team -- divided into two squads -- needed only three, with one team hitting 24 and the other 15. Wallace released them until 4 p.m. today, when the Rainbows would be back at it at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Six games into the season, there are some numbers that the 15th-year head coach likes -- such as those free-throw numbers yesterday -- and others he doesn't.

"Seventeen" is not a good number, according to Wallace. Twice Hawaii had scored that number of points, during the first half against Drake and in the second half against Colorado State.

The first time, the Rainbows managed to overcome the 26-17 halftime deficit to defeat the Bulldogs 74-63 for the Nike Tip-Off Tournament title. The second came in Hilo, where Hawaii saw its perfect record evaporate after a 17-point second half against the Rams, resulting in a 61-59 defeat.

As good as 5-1 looks, the Rainbows are not happy.

"We all know we should be 6-0," said sophomore center Haim Shimonovich.

Still, Hawaii has equaled the start last year's NCAA Tournament team had, marking the sixth time under Wallace the Rainbows have opened 5-1.

A look at some other numbers:

0: Turnovers point guard Mark Campbell had in 40 minutes against Northwestern State in a 60-58 victory Tuesday. The junior transfer, who is still learning the system, also had eight assists as Hawaii continued to play unselfish ball. Campbell has 38 assists in his first season, for a 6.2 per game average. If the season ended today, he'd rank No. 3 on the career list behind Anthony Carter (6.9) and Tom Henderson (6.4).

0: Flags worn by the Rainbows on their game uniforms. The rest of the college basketball world is sporting the Stars & Stripes, but Hawaii's show of patriotism has been delayed in the mail, according to Wallace. Perhaps the NCAA will ship them, along with their eligibility rulings.

1: Preseason tournament titles won by Hawaii after going 0-3 last year. It was the first preseason championship since the 1999 Rainbow Classic.

2: Points. The margin of victory for Colorado State in its 61-59 win over Hawaii in the Big Island Invitational Basketball Tournament last week. And the margin of victory (56-54) for Gardner-Webb, a first-year Division I team, over Colorado State last Thursday. Undoubtedly, UH assistant coach Scott Rigot will continue to use that focus for future motivational practice talks.

3: Players still awaiting word from the NCAA on their eligibility status. This comes 31 days after the Board of Directors made its decision on penalties for pro league participation and 31 days after Division I Chief of Staff David Berst told the national media, "An appeal can be heard in a matter of days. Their intent is to be responsive. They don't want to be an impediment for holding someone out of play."

4: The difference between the number of Hawaii rebounds (198) and that of its opponents (194). Wallace is not pleased with the lack of aggressiveness on the boards, although last year's squad had fewer rebounds overall than its foes (999-1004). He's hoping sophomore forward Phil Martin can average 6-7 a game -- he's currently averaging 3.8 -- and that senior Mindaugas Burneika will step it up on the boards as well, upping his 2.3 average.

5: Times out of six games that sophomore guard Carl English has led the team in scoring. The WAC Tournament MVP leads four teammates in double-figure scoring with a 17.9 average, followed by Burneika (11.7), McIntyre (11.5) and Shimonovich (10.5). Had he scored two points in the loss to Colorado State -- rather than zero -- Martin would also be in double figures (he's at 9.7 ppg)

6: Games senior guard Predrag Savovic, junior Luc-Arthur Vebobe and freshman Nkeruwem 'Tony' Akpan have missed so far. If no word is received from the NCAA within the next few days, Wallace said the school will declare Savovic and Vebobe ineligible and ask them to be reinstated after the recommended eight-game penalty. The pair of likely starters would be eligible for the Rainbow Classic opener against Portland on Dec. 19. Akpan's situation is more complex, with reports of a broker having helped him come from Nigeria to attend high school in Alabama. He could lose an entire season.

7: The number of 3-pointers that both Savovic and senior guard Mike McIntyre need to pass Tes Whitlock for third place on the UH career list. Whitlock has 109. The career record of 161 belongs to Alika Smith, now an assistant coach at Hawaii-Hilo.

8: Days before Hawaii plays its next game. The Rainbows take on Alcorn State on Dec. 10. The gap in the schedule was to allow for the Wahine to host NCAA volleyball tournament matches this weekend and next. Perhaps the NCAA has shipped the flags to Pullman, Wash., as well.

10: Straight games won at home by Hawaii, dating back to last season. The last time the Rainbows lost at the Stan Sheriff Center was to Texas-El Paso, 79-71, last Jan. 11. This is the longest streak since the 10 consecutive home games won by the 1989-90 and 1990-91 teams at the Blaisdell Arena.

14: The uniform number worn by the 6-10 Shimonovich, whom Wallace considers the most improved player from last year. "He goes unnoticed by the fans, but he's a big block in the middle. And he does a pretty good job rebounding." Shimonovich had career highs of 16 points -- including the game-winning layup -- 12 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in Tuesday's victory over Northwestern State.

21: Seconds allowed to complete four full-court sprints at the end of yesterday's practice. The Rainbows had to do three suicide sprints, then were given 10 seconds to do one up-and-back. It was one of "our better practices," said Wallace. "I liked the intensity. You can see the competition picking up between the players."

25: Days left until the Dec. 27 WAC season opener with Fresno State at the Sheriff Center. The Bulldogs' lone loss was by a point, 62-61 to Wake Forest. Fresno is currently without 2001 WAC Player of the Year Melvin Ely, who is under investigation for possibly receiving an improper benefit. The Bulldogs expect to have him back for the game with the Rainbows, as well as senior transfer guard Chris Sandy, who is sitting out the first semester following transcript problems.

61: Total minutes 6-8 junior forward Paul Jesinskis has played in six appearances. His best outing was in the loss to Colorado State, in which he hit his first four shots but missed the potential game-tying jumper at the buzzer. Wallace said he needs to get Jesinskis more playing time, looking for a way to make up for the 5-7 rebounds a game that the Rainbows got last season from the since-departed Nerijus Puida.

72: Percent of assists to baskets this season. Hawaii has 109 assists on 152 field goals. The unselfishness has been good, up to a point. Campbell passed up a wide-open shot in the lane against Colorado State, passing to Jesinskis, who missed the 13-footer that would have sent the game into overtime.

1 million: Things the Hawaii coaching staff wants to work on before the Alcorn State game.

"There's still plenty of room for improvement," Wallace said. "Our execution on offense is not as good as it was last year at this point of the season. But our defense is improved over a year ago.

"It's hard to get a feel for what we'll be like once we get the other guys back. Savo brings so much energy and makes everyone around better. Luc is so athletic and plays above the rim."

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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