Monday, March 1, 1999
Riley Wallace thinksBy Pat Bigold
Marquette Alexander will be
a good starting point
Hawaii's worst men's basketball season since 1987-88 is over, leaving one big question behind: Is there hope for next year?
A big part of the answer lies in yet another question: Can coach Riley Wallace find someone to become a leader on the court?
Besides the obvious talent deficit, leadership was glaringly absent during the disastrous 6-20 season just completed.
In 1996-97 and 1997-98, the backcourt duo of Anthony Carter and Alika Smith were the court generals. But no one ever stepped up to replace them.
There were several candidates to lead the Rainbows through the rebuilding season. But none of the seniors qualified.
Not even forward Mike Robinson, who was the No. 1 rebounder (6.5 rpg) and No. 2 scorer (11.7 ppg), was consistent enough to inspire.
Injury and illness plagued the seasons of seniors Erin Galloway and Casey Cartwright.
Just how disappointing the Rainbows were was emphasized yesterday when Hawaii did not even place an honorable mention on the All-Western Athletic Conference Pacific Division team.
It's the first time since 1985-86 that the Rainbows did not receive any recognition at all in postseason.
Marquette Alexander, the 6-foot-8 junior transfer from City College of San Francisco, emerges as the most likely candidate to lead the Rainbows in 1999-2000.
"Marquette is the guy you have to look to to build around," said Wallace.
He led the team in scoring (13.4 ppg). He was the most consistent performer, the man exuding the most emotion and confidence in every game he played.
He scored in double digits 18 times and led the team in scoring nine times. Off the glass, he was the team's second best performer with 5.2 rebounds per game.
Alexander was also one of the WAC's foul leaders. But he seemed to fire up the team even when he was in trouble. The Rainbows won both games from which he was ejected (Jan. 28 at home vs. San Diego and Thursday at home vs. San Jose State). He led the team in fouling out four times.
But Alexander's temper explosions on Thursday and at Fresno State on Jan. 30 when a fan was taunting him (Wallace yanked him from the game) raised questions about his maturity.
Can he get his on-court emotions enough under control to become the leader Wallace wants him to be next season?
Alexander, who showed up at Stan Sheriff Center at the end of the game Saturday night with a broad smile on his face, said he regretted losing his head.
Wallace, who suspended Alexander for the last game of the season as a result of Thursday's ejection, said he still believes in Alexander. But he thinks he has some maturing to do.
Alexander clearly was unhappy with the season and at one point last week said he was only 50-50 about returning. Now he insists he is coming back.
''Coming here in August, I was juiced and ready to have fun, but I didn't have no fun at all," said Alexander.
''Marquette hates to lose," said Wallace, who finds that to be Alexander's most attractive quality as a player.
Wallace, who left on a recruiting trip yesterday afternoon, said he needs to find some effective outside shooters. But he sees hope in what he already has.
Two talented recruits will begin to play next winter: sharpshooting 6-6 swingman Pedrag Savovic, a transfer from Alabama-Birmingham, and 6-foot-8 power forward Bernard McIntosh, from Northland Pioneer Community College in Holbrook, Ariz.
Junior point guard Johnny White, reserve guards Mike McIntyre (freshman), Damon Lee (junior), and Geremy Robinson (junior), freshman forward Philipp Czernin and sophomore forward Gary Gillman are all expected to be counted on next season.
White started 26 games and averaged nearly 37 minutes a game. Wallace wants to ease the burden on him by recruiting a point guard.
Czernin started 18 games and shot 60 percent from the field. But his turnover rate and hesitancy to take open shots have sometimes come under scrutiny.
Wallace would also like to find that most elusive entity -- a talented big man -- so he can move Alexander to forward.
Recruits cannot sign national letters of intent until the first week of next month