COURTESY UH ATHLETICS
Alex Veit has played in 13 games for Hawaii this season.
Veit tries to build on natural talent
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The countdown is quickly dwindling for the Hawaii basketball team's senior class.
Utah State (18-7, 8-2 WAC) at Hawaii (10-12, 6-4)
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
The Rainbow Warrior upperclassmen have just three games left in the Stan Sheriff Center, including tomorrow's Western Athletic Conference meeting with Utah State.
Forward Alex Veit is among those looking to make the most of his remaining time in a UH uniform. Although minutes have been tough to come by in his career, he's had a chance to bring his athletic gifts to the court more lately for a thin UH frontcourt rotation.
"Once you get an opportunity like that you have to jump on it," said Veit, one of the team's top leapers.
The Rainbows (10-12, 6-4 WAC) enter tomorrow's game fifth in the conference, but with a chance to close on the leader, sitting two games behind first-place Utah State (18-7, 8-2) with five league games left.
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Alex Veit learned quickly to watch what he says around his teammates.
Shortly after arriving on campus before his first season in Hawaii, he let slip that his mom had nicknamed him "Smooch" and, sure enough, the moniker has followed the Hawaii forward ever since.
Not that he regrets being tagged with the distinctive handle.
"I was just joking around and said it around my friends and it just stuck with them," Veit said. "It's cool. I don't mind it at all. If that's what people like to call me that's fine."
The naturally soft-spoken Veit's UH career has quietly sped by as he and the rest of the Rainbows' seven-member senior class approach the ends of their college playing days. They have three home games left at the Stan Sheriff Center, starting with tomorrow's Western Athletic Conference contest against Utah State.
Veit's name hasn't been called all that often over the course of his two seasons at UH, but he's made contributions not readily evident in a scan of the stat sheet with his work in practice. Slowed by a sprained ankle early in the season, he's also seen more regular action lately with the Rainbows relatively thin in the post these days.
"You can't put a value on how hard these guys have to work to help the starters to get ready and he's been one of the guys that really worked hard," UH coach Bob Nash said. "He's a tremendous athlete, tremendous teammate.
"We have to continue to build his confidence the next six games and hopefully he'll get more and more playing time."
After transferring to UH from Monterey Peninsula College, Veit got into 10 games last season and has appeared in 13 this year, providing spot minutes off the bench. Although he'd naturally rather play longer minutes, he maintains a positive outlook on his role.
"You just have to find a way to look at it in a positive light and just see what can I take from what I have and try to build on that," Veit said.
"It's tough, but whatever way the chips falls you have to say to yourself, 'I know I can play this game' and just do whatever I can with the situation I'm in. ... I'll just stay steady at it and try to remain focused on that."
Veit -- whose sister, Bailey, played volleyball at Auburn -- is among the most physically gifted of the Rainbow Warriors. At 6-foot-8, he has a vertical leap (with an approach) of nearly 40 inches and among his highlights this season was a putback dunk against Boise State last month.
"He's a freak athlete," said roommate and fellow UH post player P.J. Owsley. "He can jump out of the gym, shoot it, real aggressive around the hoop.
"Going against him is a definite help. It's someone who's actually as strong as the players you'll go against (in the game), that's a big key."
But coming from free-flowing systems in high school and junior college, fitting his game into the structure of UH's flex offense has been the challenge for Veit.
"He's still basically a young player in terms of his knowledge of the game and if he ever gets all that together with his athleticism he could be scary good," Nash said. "We've seen spots of it but he has to be able to do that every night to get on the floor.
"He's the kind of guy you wish we had when he was a freshman coming in."
Between Veit and the equally quiet Owsley, their dorm room is probably the least rowdy among the team. He spends much of his down time keeping connected to his family, and they've seen -- and heard -- the effect his time in Hawaii has made on him.
"His independence is such that it's made him mature as a person and forced him to step outside of his quiet personality," said his mother, Jan Veit. "He's much more outgoing and assertive."
"I don't want to sound clich, but it's been a great experience for me coming here," said Alex. "I've done certain things I wouldn't have gotten to do at a different school. Hawaii basketball is unique in itself. It's just been a learning experience, opened my eyes to different people, different things."