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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, April 11, 2000

If Rainbow recruits
fit in, men’s team
could win 20

TOMORROW night, the Rainbow men's postseason basketball banquet will be held at a Waikiki hotel, and the main course will be hope.

Look at the ESPN Web site page where Hawaii's game-by-game results are posted for last season. You'll notice that instead of a score for the Fresno State game on March 10, there's a line that reads, "In progress."

Outdated but appropriate.

What happened in Hawaii's double-overtime WAC semifinals loss that night in Selland Arena launched a new era in Rainbow basketball, and it is still in progress.

It will continue tomorrow with the first day that recruits can sign national letters of intent. The Rainbows look like they will fill their critical needs at point guard and center, and add a rugged forward, before the signing deadline of May 15.

Meanwhile, three returning starters (Predrag Savovic, Troy Ostler and Nerijus Puida), all of whom made an impact in the WAC last season, are hitting the weights regularly. Mike McIntyre, one of the WAC's best shooters off the bench, can't seem to put down the basketball.

I replayed the tape of the Fresno State game last night, and I watched the new era begin as the Rainbows lost Marquette Alexander to fouls with more than three minutes left in regulation.

GONE was the captain, the leader in scoring, the leader in rebounding, the big brother who was always there to take on the bullies in the low post.

It was hard to imagine Hawaii gaining any of its previous 16 wins without him. Without Alexander against Fresno State in the waning minutes of a WAC semifinal at Selland Arena? Forget it.

I remember sitting in press row, cupping my ears as the crowd roared at Alexander's final exit.

It sounded like the engines of a jumbo jetliner.

But the Rainbows did something I found remarkable. The team that hadn't been able to win more than one game on the road all season maintained its poise, regrouped and came within a hair of pulling off the biggest upset of the WAC season.

If the Rainbows had done it, chances are they would have gone on to upset Tulsa in the title game.

Hawaii was red-hot and the Golden Hurricane was not playing its best ball that weekend.

The players sitting at their tables tomorrow night will be turning the "what ifs" over in their heads.

WHAT if Mike McIntyre's clean steal off Courtney Alexander at midcourt hadn't been whistled for a foul with 5.8 seconds left in regulation with the Rainbows ahead 82-80?

What if Johnny White's desperation layup had gone in at the buzzer?

What if Tre' Stovall, knocked to the floor after his layup tied the game at 100-100 near the end of the second OT, had been awarded a free throw?

What if someone had been able to get a hand in Demetrius Porter's face when he launched his trey at the final buzzer?

But none of that matters now.

With the exception of departing seniors Alexander, White and Geremy Robinson, the rest of the players who took Fresno State to the ropes will be back.

From where I stand, it looks like they still believe they belong in the WAC final.

If the Rainbow returnees can draw the newcomers into the momentum that began on March 10, expect 20 wins.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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