PHOTO COURTESY BRIGHAM YOUNG-HAWAII
Lucas Alves has improved since joining Brigham Young-Hawaii.
Alves improves with BYUH
If Lucas Alves' English around the rim improves as rapidly as his English in casual conversation, the Brigham Young-Hawaii Seasiders could be a repeat threat to crack into the NCAA Division II postseason.
Alves, a sophomore from Brazil, was recently tabbed as the Pacific West Conference's preseason player of the year. The 6-foot-9 power forward/center averaged 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds last year for a Seasiders team that advanced to the NCAA West Regional.
BYUH was selected by the coaches to win the seven-team conference over defending champion Grand Canyon (Ariz.), and will rely heavily on Alves' contributions.
"I need to play tougher, because here (in the USA) it's more physical, and improve my defense," said Alves, who knew very little English before leaving his hometown of Casa Branca, but has picked up the language considerably since his freshman year. His post moves (60 percent shooting) and energy on the court (31 blocks) are his strengths.
The Seasiders will be without their second- and third-leading scorers from last season in Eric Boyce and Wu Tai-Hao. But Seasiders coach Ken Wagner feels confident that Alves and senior Paul Peterson (8.7 points per game) represent enough offense to build on.
The PacWest will be without an automatic bid to the postseason for at least one more year as provisional D-II members Dixie State (Utah) and Notre Dame de Namur (Calif.) transition in for the minimum amount of teams in a recognized conference. That means a team will have to dominate during the regular season -- as Grand Canyon (13-2) and BYUH (12-3) did last year -- to attract an at-large bid.
"I think to get back to the NCAA tournament, we have to win against tough competition," Wagner said. "You have to have a solid schedule; we have some very good teams."
BYUH has already defeated two exhibition opponents, and opens the regular season Nov. 30 at Western Oregon in the Central Washington Tournament. The Seasiders also play fellow 2006-07 West Regional team Seattle Pacific in Laie on Dec. 22.
Chaminade kicks off the PacWest's first regular-season game against Golden State Baptist (Calif.) tomorrow at McCabe Gym.
BYUH (20-8, 12-3 last year)
Lucas Alves (14.5 ppg, 60 percent field-goal shooting) was the top scorer on the BYUH team that went to the NCAA II West Regional last year, and figures to be prominently featured in his team's offense. Paul Peterson and Corey Nielson will also contribute heavily.
"I think as they go, that's how the Seasiders will go," Wagner said.
Chaminade (16-11, 8-7 last year)
The Silverswords will miss do-it-all point guard Zack Whiting, who led the PacWest in points and assists last year. Marko Kolaric (11.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg), a 7-foot senior from Serbia, will now shoulder the brunt of the team's offense.
"(Whiting) led us in so many ways offensively," coach Matt Mahar said. "A leader on and off the court for us. So, we're definitely struggling right now. We do have six seniors back, but we're trying to find other pieces to the puzzle for where he left off. Hopefully, Marko steps up."
UH-Hilo (8-19, 5-10 last year)
The one-two punch of Vince Alvarado (12.9 ppg) and Sam Wilhoite (10.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg), both seniors, will carry the Vulcans early, but coach Jeff Law will look for production from the team's many newcomers, including three walk-ons.
"We have four kids coming back, four kids who played pretty hard for us," Law said. "We'll be very competitive, we'll be versatile, and we're a lot deeper than we have been."
HPU (10-16, 5-10 last year)
The Sea Warriors have five players back with nine new faces, but of the five returnees, three are seniors.
Coach Darren Vorderbruegge feels pretty good about senior guard/forward Ryan Walker and his other seniors, Logan Wolf and Kevin Schneider.
"A lot of new faces but I've noticed it's been a little bit easier on the learning curve because the returning players consistently show them the system, and that really speeds things up," Vorderbruegge said.