Friday, February 21, 2003


Hawaii-Hilo's Kyle Bartholomew is not the star his father was, but he's just as effective.

Hilo’s dirty bird

Kyle Bartholomew has fought
his way out of his father's shadow

By Jerry Campany

Nearly every basketball fan in Hilo knows the legend of "The Bird," but they would have to really pay attention to know that the sequel is in many ways better than the original.

Kyle Bartholomew followed his father to Hawaii-Hilo four years ago, paying no mind to the fact that Jay "The Bird" Bartholomew holds the top spot in the school's record book in points per game and is a charter inductee of the school's Hall of Fame.

Jay Bartholomew was the type of player who got all the glory, came off screens and benefited from the hard work of those around him to be the only player in the history of the program to average more than 20 points per game. His son has turned into one of those guys who made him look so good, the foot soldier that every fighter pilot needs on the ground. If his father was "The Bird," Kyle Bartholomew is the "Dirty Bird."

And just the kind of player who Jay Bartholomew, who coaches the Waiakea boys team, knows every team needs.

"He has improved a lot, he is so much stronger and is much better defensively," Jay Bartholomew said. "It hasn't been easy for him this year, though; he has been asked to do a lot of the things nobody else wants to do or appreciates."

Kyle Bartholomew was supposed to soar with the legend of his father this season. He put together nine double-doubles last year and earned an honorable mention for the All-Conference team. Coming back for his senior season, the captain figured he would be given the ball rather than have to go get it himself on the offensive glass. The last thing he thought would happen was that his minutes would decline despite the fact that he had gotten so much better over the summer.

Hilo coach Jeff Law matched Bartholomew's effort over the summer, bringing in a pair of scorers from California -- Ryan Abrahams and Osadonor Esene -- whose abilities demand time on the floor. Bartholomew was asked to be a role player his senior season, to do the dirty work and take one for the team. Because of the depth, Kyle Bartholomew's minutes dropped from 30 to 25 and it all happened so quickly, he didn't have time to complain.

"I think I adjusted pretty good, I didn't really understand it at first," Kyle Bartholomew said. "Before, I would have been angry. It was my whole life and sitting would have taken a toll. I had a pretty bad temper."

His bad temper made him a good basketball player. Controlling it made him a solid one and helped his team increase in wins each year over his career. The Vulcans need to win four of their next five games -- not including postseason -- to exceed last year's 18 victories.

When Kyle Bartholomew first enrolled at Hilo, he was just like any other student. Perhaps too much like any other student, because the demands of basketball and schoolwork don't allow much time for fun. So he made time for fun, trying to balance the parties with the basketball. School was not even in the equation, because it is easy for a bright kid to do just enough to stay on the team without needing to stick his nose in a boring book about nothing.

And that was the way Bartholomew lived his life, at least until the he found a book that was about something.

Fellow student Chris Tevis had seen Kyle Bartholomew on the court and raising hell around Hilo and approached the big man on campus, asking if he could share the word of his God.

"I thought, 'Oh man, I don't want to read this,' " Kyle Bartholomew said. "But it was a regular Bible and I thought it was kind of cool and wanted to learn more about it."

Bartholomew began studying the book and had his best season ever last year, starting every game while leading the team in rebounding. He got serious about school, and his grade point average has increased every semester since that day, despite the fact that he was doubling up on classes to catch up.

"He has changed a lot from day one," Law said. "He was struggling when he, (Alan) Thomas and (Scott) Prather and the church started coming into play. The accumulation of all of those things helped him keep focused. It's not about knocking on people's doors and converting them to a religion, it's about keeping focused, and it has given him a focus and an ability to see things as before. He has his own identity now."

Caught in a controversy when underaged members of his Waiakea team were caught drinking, Jay Bartholomew knows more than anyone the mistakes kids can make while feeling their way through life. His son is no different, except that he has lived through the happy ending.

"He has changed a tremendous amount," Jay Batholomew said. "He is mature, has made much wiser decisions and seems a lot happier. Not that he was totally nuts or anything, but he has learned that it is not all about having fun."

Without religion, Kyle Bartholomew probably still would have joined his father and three others in the Vulcans' 1,000-point club, which he is on pace to do by the end of the season. He probably would have even found a way to graduate, just not as quickly.

A lot of people see Bartholomew on the floor and assume that his father made him the player he is, that the Bird gave him the basketball gene and drilled him in the driveway to make sure he didn't waste it. Jay Bartholomew says they might be on the right track, but his contribution was as simple as providing a rebounder whenever one was needed.

"He has worked awfully hard on his own," Jay Bartholomew said. "You can give someone advice and you can point him in the right direction, but after that it is all on him. He's a special player and he recognized he had to improve in certain areas and he did."

For Kyle Bartholomew, the journey from arriving at Hilo a boy and leaving it as a man started in the driveway with his brothers, trying to take down the old man. The urge to be better than him has passed. Now, it is all about being remembered as being almost as good.

"It is still one of my favorite moments of my life, me and (brothers) Evan against Levi and my dad in the driveway," Bartholomew said. "I would not have even been a good high school player without him. He has taught me every move I have."

UH Athletics

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