Thursday, October 14, 1999
eager to step up
The senior center vows toBy Pat Bigold
avoid the on-court problems
he had last season
The first Hawaii men's basketball team of the new millennium debuts at tomorrow's Midnight Ohana, promising to dismiss the 1998-99 season as nothing but a bad dream.
The coming campaign hinges largely on two factors.
1. The success of what one national basketball magazine has called the Rainbows' best recruiting class of the decade (54th best in the NCAA).
2. The leadership and inside play of newly named team captain Marquette Alexander.
There's no question that the Rainbows look to the 6-foot-8 senior center to jump-start the comeback.
Alexander was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy 6-20 season, scoring a team-leading 13.4 points per game, and becoming the team's second best rebounder behind Mike Ro-binson.
Alexander has returned from his summer at home in San Francisco 25 pounds leaner, and associate head coach Bob Nash has dubbed him an athlete "on the verge" of becoming a NBA prospect.
Wahine picked to finish first;Star-Bulletin staff
Hawaii has been picked to win the Western Athletic Conference women's basketball title in the preseason coaches' poll, while the UH men were predicted to finish seventh in the eight-team conference.
The Wahine received five first-place votes and 45 points to edge Southern Methodist (two first-place votes, 43 points). Rice was third (38 points) followed by Texas Christian (33), which got the other first-place vote, Fresno State (22), UTEP (19), Tulsa (17) and San Jose State (7).
On the men's side, Fresno State received 12 of 17 first-place votes and earned the top spot with 128 points. Tulsa, TCU, SMU, UTEP and Rice followed the Bulldogs with San Jose State picked eighth.
Rainbows sophomore guard/forward Predrag Savovic and Tulsa junior forward David Shelton tied in voting to pick the Newcomer of the Year with three votes each.
But Alexander came up short in the composure department a few times last season, a tendency that annoyed Riley Wallace and further penalized his struggling team.
Alexander was ejected from two games due to temper flareups with officials and was removed from another by Wallace when he lost his cool with an abusive fan in Fresno.
"The immaturity kicked in with the intensity to win," said Alexander, who came to Hawaii believing the Rainbows would vault from back-to-back 21-win seasons to a NCAA berth.
"Just thinking that we were losing despite all the talent we had last season really hurt," he said. "Other teams were talking about us (on the court) like we were below them, and deep down inside my heart, I knew we were at the same level. It all built up inside me."
Admitting he has never been able to play without talking a lot, Alexander smiled wryly during an interview this week when he said he has devised a plan to control his mouth.
It's a plan he hasn't even divulged to Wallace.
"This year, I'm going to wear a mouthpiece so I can't talk," said Alexander.
"I'm doing this for the sake of the team. I don't need no problems with the refs and I definitely don't need no problems with my coach. I don't trust myself. I feel my mouth hurts me as well as my team."
Alexander said he probably won't begin wearing the mouthpiece tomorrow night, but will when Hawaii plays its first real competition on Nov. 7.
To say Alexander, who has never had a problem off the court, felt guilty about his two game ejections would be an understatement.
When he got off the plane in August and assistant coach Jackson Wheeler told him Wallace wanted to see him in his office right away, Alexander began to sweat.
"I was worried," he said. "I had all those memories of bad times in my head.
"So, when I went to see him and he told me he wanted me to be captain of the team, I was shocked. I said, 'You do?' I felt like I had been the bad person of the Hawaii Rainbows."
But Wallace said there's certainly nothing bad about Alexander. He's as decent a young man as he's ever recruited. The coach's concern is that he gets a little too passionate about winning sometimes.
"But he's come back more mature," said Wallace. "He has outstanding ability to score inside. He just has to work on his rebounding and defense. And control his temper."
Ka Leo O Hawaii