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Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Sunday, November 9, 2003


UH needs its
new blood
on the floor


THEY need to come along, quickly. There is no Carl this year, and as we've just found out, no Tony, too. A lot of new faces in this year's Rainbow lineup. And if this UH basketball team is going to have a big year, with its super recruiting class and previously seldom-used reserves penciled in for bigger roles, these new guys can't stay new for long.

Easier said than done. JC Carter knows firsthand. The Hawaii guard was part of a great recruiting class last year, one that was to fill holes seamlessly, would keep the ride rolling and push UH over the top. These were to be the guys who would make sure Hawaii wouldn't miss a beat.

But something happened, between preseason practices and the Sweet 16. It sounded good, and started fine, but then the Western Athletic Conference season came, and losses happened, and heralded recruits were playing only a few minutes a game.

And Riley Wallace, the man who had signed all these great players, was telling us he had no depth.

This year, that can't happen. This time, if UH is going to have the kind of year we've come to expect, these new guys -- this looks like another good class -- need to be ready to play right now.

"Well the good part is," Carter said, "everybody, they catch on quick."

And Carter knows what a challenge that that can be.

"It's different," he said of the transition, of the games, of the level of play. "Because we have a lot of new players and they don't know how it's going to be. How the WAC is. It's a little different from high school and junior college.

"That's what I had to learn last year."

And so he has. And Vaidotas Peciukas, who went from being hailed as "the next Savo," to scoring 3.7 points a game, seems a lot more comfortable now, and confident, too. I think he's going to be a player.

(It was great seeing him on the news, when asked who should shoot more, he said, "Me." Then, after a comic pause, as if he'd given the wrong answer, "No?")

And then there is good-natured center Milos Zivanovic, who said, "This is my third year. If I'm still afraid, then why I'm here?"

So it sounds like time has seasoned them well.

But as we saw last season, coaches, teams, fans don't have that kind of time.

This group certainly doesn't. If this is another tournament team, then the truly new guys have to be instant vets.

And a lot of that falls to leadership.

That falls to the guys who are no longer quite so new.

"We've got to give that to everybody," Carter said.

"They just kind of put us on their back, and they're carrying us," homecoming king Julian Sensley said.

But are Haim Shimonovich and Phil Martin really all grown up? Are they truly captains, take-charge, tough-guy leadership types who can set a tone for a team trying to bring everyone along?

"I think so," Sensley said.

Said Martin, "A lot has been asked, and a lot has been accepted."

And with no time to waste, a lot is expected. From new and old alike.



See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com

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