RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii guard Todd Lowenthal has made a smooth transition from high school classrooms to college ones.
For 'Bows, it's academic
Members of the UH basketball team remember they are students as well as athletes
Since arriving on the University of Hawaii campus last summer, Todd Lowenthal has proven as adept at juggling his schedule as he is at handling a basketball.
As the freshman continues his on-court education with the Rainbow Warriors, he's made a smooth transition to college-level work in the classroom, posting a 4.0 grade-point average in his first semester in Manoa.
SAN JOSE STATE AT HAWAII
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: $26 (lower level, single seats only), $22 (upper level, adults), $5 (upper level, students), $3 (upper, UH students), $5 (Super Rooter/Manoa Maniacs).
It's no small feat considering the often daunting demands placed on college athletes balancing class time with practice time and having to deal with road trips taking them out of school for weeks at a time.
"Being organized is the big thing," Lowenthal said. "I'm always using my planner."
With the Rainbows back in town for a two-game homestand this week, having some time at home represents a chance to get back on track in the Western Athletic Conference race and play catch up academically.
The team spent most of last week on the mainland for two games in Idaho. After playing tonight and Monday against Utah State at home, the Rainbows depart again on Tuesday for a trip to Fresno State and Nevada.
"We're gone every other week, so you have to do a lot," Lowenthal said. "Talk to your teachers, do a lot of extra work on the road. When you get back you have to make up a lot of stuff. But you just have to take care of it if you want to do good in the classroom."
"If you don't stay caught up you're definitely going to be behind when you get to finals and midterms," said junior center Stephen Verwers. "It's important just to stay in communication with your teachers -- a lot of them are really understanding about it."
Lowenthal was a heralded student-athlete at Poway High School in San Diego.
Along with being a three-time all-league selection and one of the most highly regarded prep point guards in the area, he earned a 4.03 GPA (due to taking college-level Advanced Placement courses) and was named to the San Diego Union-Tribune's all-academic team.
On the court, his playing time has been limited with Matt Gibson and Dominic Waters rotating at point guard as he makes the adjustment to college ball. In the classroom, he's picked up where he left off in high school.
"High school kind of prepared me for (college)," Lowenthal said. "It's been in my head that I have to do both, thinking about school and playing basketball. And afterwards it's important to get a degree."
It's a goal that will soon become reality for junior forward Bobby Nash.
Nash, in his fourth year of school, is on course to graduate in May with a degree in Political Science and has twice been named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Academic team. Nash and Verwers are Academic All-America nominees.
"Being an athlete it's definitely hard to graduate in four years," Nash said. "I did what I had to do and took the right classes."
The team has regular study halls, and the staff at the Nagatani Academic Center, led by department chair Jennifer Matsuda, helps keep the players on track both when they're home and on the road.
"Jenny does an excellent job of working with the professors back at home to make sure they have assignments," associate coach Bob Nash said. "She stays on top of them, the players e-mail professors back and forth, they e-mail their classmates about assignments that were given out. It's a coordinated effort."
Said Bobby Nash: "They help us a lot, they're kind of the unseen heroes."
The resources available are quite a bit more advanced than when Bob Nash was a UH basketball star with the Fabulous Five in the early 1970s.
"We didn't have the computers and Internet to stay in touch with teachers, we didn't have the academic center," he said. "It's instantaneous now where you can get information in a matter of a phone call or an e-mail from your professor.
"It's not easy being a student-athlete," Nash said. "They understand that, and hopefully most of them take advantage of the opportunity to get their education paid for, and not waste their time not studying and not preparing themselves for the future."
It went down in the books as a 19-point loss, but San Jose State's visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium on New Year's Eve certainly wasn't a fruitless venture.
Playing on Duke's fabled home floor, the Spartans stayed with the Blue Devils most of the game, closing to within three in the second half. Duke eventually pulled away in the final minutes, but the Spartans benefited from the experience.
"We can tell our guys, 'Look, you held up at Duke, where should you be scared to go?' " said SJSU coach George Nessman. "We have some tough venues, this (the Stan Sheriff Center) is one of them, in our conference. But once you've handled yourself at Duke you kind of get some confidence out of that.
"Since that point we've really been a different club. ... Our guys came out of there with a different mind-set: 'We're going to be OK. We don't need to be afraid to go on the road. We can compete with people.' "
SJSU's schedule is the third toughest in the country, according to the Sagarin ratings and though wins remain elusive for the 2-16 Spartans, they're encouraged by the strides they've taken. Among their losses: a one-point defeat to Utah State and a three-point loss to Fresno State on Monday.
The Spartans are in the midst of a run of four games in eight days. They'll return home tomorrow and conclude the stretch against New Mexico State on Saturday.
"It's part of life in the WAC," Nessman said.