Friday, March 26, 2004


Hawaii's Josh Stanhiser went from basketball to volleyball.

A tall order

Hawaii’s 6-foot-10 giant
Josh Stanhiser excels on the
court and in the classroom

The tall jokes get old. So do the nicknames, like "Stretch," "Sticks" and "Tree."

But 6-foot-10 Josh Stanhiser doesn't mind.

He knows he's tall. He's always been tall.

"It's why I keep the hair long on top," he said. "It's part of the early detection system, my buffer. I don't mind being tall. When I go to a mall, I can look around and see everything for miles."

It may be part of the reason the zoology major says the kinkajou is his favorite animal. The mammal lives among the upper canopy of the tropical rain forest.

"If I could have any pet in the world, it would be that," said Stanhiser, a starting middle blocker for the No. 5 Hawaii Warriors volleyball team. "It's furry. It's cute."

And then his zoology background kicks in. It's no surprise that Stanhiser is a teaching assistant (ethology this semester) and tutor at UH.

"It's a small mammal, almost a primate, like a small lemur," he said. "It has a prehensile tail ... "

Stanhiser is a student, a very good student. He's also learning to become a very good volleyball player.

The senior has been among the national leaders in hitting percentage all season. He takes a .512 -- second-best in the country -- into tonight's match with Cal Baptist at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Stanhiser is still transitioning from basketball, the sport that took him to Columbia Union College in Maryland for two seasons, the sport that initially brought him to the University of Hawaii. He was on a student mission, teaching at Hawaiian Mission Academy in the fall of 2000, and began looking at playing basketball on Oahu.

Stanhiser, the NCAA Division II leader in blocks in 1999-2000, walked onto the Rainbow basketball team. He redshirted in 2001-02 and had hoped for a scholarship the next season.

It didn't pan out, but the men's volleyball team had some financial help available. It has paid off for the Warriors.

"He's starting to look like a volleyball player," said UH coach Mike Wilton. "And I think he can play at a higher level. If anything, he's at least worth a look."

Wilton said he will talk to U.S. national team coach Doug Beal and team consultant Carl McGown about Stanhiser's future.

That would be fine with the senior, who will graduate this May. Stanhiser has no set plans.

"Of course, I'd love to play overseas, either volleyball or basketball," he said. "If nothing happens, then I'll probably take a year off, maybe travel, and then go for my master's in zoology."

The one knock on Stanhiser has been that his intelligence has sometimes gotten in the way of his play.

"The wheels are turning a lot less," Wilton said. "It's coming through reps and feedback."

Said senior setter Kimo Tuyay: "When he's playing, he tends to over-analyze things. He thinks too much. I tell him to just keep playing hard and he'll be fine.

"His step-out is really good. It's a motion that he's used to, like a lay-up or a dunk."

Stanhiser, who touches 11-6, is basically unstoppable on the step-out. The play has him sliding behind the setter, taking off on one foot and swinging down on the ball.

"It's fun," he said. "It's about timing. It's not about the setter putting it where I need it. It's about putting it where I can go get it. It's more my control, and I like having control."

Said senior hitter/libero Jake Muise: "That step-out is his ... I don't think we should set him anything else. That 11-6 is a standing jump. In a game, he and Delano (junior hitter Thomas) are close to touching 12 feet.

"Making the transition from a basketball player to a volleyball player is one of the most athletic feats you can do in the world. You go from a sport where you can hold the ball and work with that, to a sport where you don't touch it for more than a millisecond. It takes a great athlete to be able to transfer from sport to sport like that, especially not having all that much volleyball experience."

In high school, Stanhiser played three years of varsity volleyball and basketball at Loma Linda (Calif.) Academy. He had offers to play basketball and chose Columbia Union because it was an NCAA school (Division II) and affiliated with his church, Seventh-day Adventist.

"I've always enjoyed both, but I wanted to play basketball," said Stanhiser, who left Columbia Union after two seasons. "Hawaii is the atmosphere that I'm best suited for. I like the weather and it's laid-back. It's one of the reasons I didn't like Maryland -- it was too cold. I was running around in shorts and they were all looking at me funny. I told them, 'Hey, this is all I got and I can take it.' "

He's much happier in Hawaii, enjoying hiking, surfing and the beach. His directed research class has him working on Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay, doing octopus tracking.

Stanhiser has put a few things on his to-do list, such as learning German and traveling to Australia. His teammates would like him to add one more: having fun playing volleyball.

"I think I've seen him get excited and emotional like twice in two years," Muise said. "Josh never celebrates. But if he sticks his hand up after a play, you know he's happy."

Muise calls Stanhiser a genius. He recalled an incident at BYU where the team was in the parking lot and the car of Wilton's younger son, Mike Jr., wouldn't start.

"The first person everyone turned to is Josh," Muise said. "We don't even know if he knows anything about cars, but we ask him first because he knows about everything. I can't remember what was wrong, it was too cold and we were all sitting in the van, letting Josh deal with it. He fixed it."

Whether Stanhiser can help Hawaii make it back home to the final four in May is a question he would like to answer.

"It would be nice to be able to win it here," he said. "We have the players, we have the team that can do it. Whether we can pull it together in time, I don't know."


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