Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, June 18, 1999

R A I N B O W _ B A S K E T B A L L

UH hoops has
best recruit class
of the ’90s

A national magazine ranks
the 'Bows 54th in the nation,
third in the WAC

By Pat Bigold


Hawaii men's basketball has its best recruiting class of the decade, according to a national magazine.

Van Coleman's FutureStars magazine will rank Riley Wallace's seven-man incoming class as the 54th best in the nation.

The Rainbows are rated third in the Western Athletic Conference behind San Jose State (47th) and Tulsa (50th).

"They needed a good recruiting class, and they got one," said Coleman. "It's the best one of the '90s."

Wallace, whose program went from two straight 20-win seasons to a six-win season, greeted the news with cautious optimism.

"After last year, it kind of scares me to rate them, but I didn't get to see most of those kids last year," said Wallace. "This year, I saw almost all of them."

Wallace cut back his recruiting duties in 1998 for health reasons.

"But this time, we all (including assistant Jackson Wheeler and departed assistant Jamie Dixon) cross-referenced each other's choices," said Wallace.

Rated just ahead of Hawaii was Penn at 53rd. Behind the Rainbows is Creighton (55th).

Coleman said the ratings are based upon quality of talent and ability to fill special needs.

The Rainbows had a verbal commitment from a 7-2 center from Compton, Calif., last year named Terry Sellers. But Sellers never returned his letter of intent.

"There are a lot of ifs as to how good we're going to be next season," said Wallace.

One of those is point guard Roy DelaCruz. DelaCruz is attending summer school in New York trying to achieve a B in algebra because he failed the math exit exam at his last school, Paris (Texas) J.C.

If he doesn't make it, Wallace will be left with one accomplished point guard again: Johnny White.

But Wallace said that even without DelaCruz, the team will be better than it was.

"Johnny didn't have a lot to throw to last year," he said. "Some of the guys couldn't catch the ball, and some of the guys couldn't shoot when they got it, so he got turnovers and he didn't get enough assists. But these guys (coming in) will be better."

Besides DelaCruz, the recruits who have signed are 6-6 forward Lane O'Connor (a 51 percent 3-point shooter), 7-0 center Todd Fields, 6-8 forward Troy Ostler, 6-5 guard-forward Nerijus Puida, 6-8 forward Bernard McIntosh and 6-6 redshirt guard Predrag Savovic, who transferred last year from Alabama-Birmingham.

"The kids you have to look at for the most impact in the class," said Coleman, "are Puida, the wing who had a great, great national tournament and was named second-team All-America, and McIntosh, (who is) a very strong rebounder and can shoot the ball very well."

Wallace said he likes Ostler because he plays like a '3' despite being a big man.

In addition, Wallace said Savovic, who once played for the Yugoslavia National Team, should be a major factor. Wallace said Savovic has the spunk of a Chris Herren.

UH is reportedly also looking at a 5-7 Japan high school star regarded as a Pete Maravich type of ballhandler and shooter. But it's unlikely he would be available until the 2000 season if he met qualifications and accepted a Hawaii scholarship.

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