Friday, April 14, 2000
Theocharidis alwaysBy Dave Reardon
ready to rock for UH
Very clearly, very precisely, Mike Wilton goes over the next day's schedule with his University of Hawaii volleyball team.
Finally, he gets to announcing game-time tonight against Pacific, and his voice gets louder.
"...Then, 7 p.m.: rock 'n' ROLL," says the coach.
The face of Metallica fan Costas Theocharidis splits with a huge grin.
A bemused Wilton explains the expression's double-meaning to his star outside hitter, for whom many English idioms might as well be Greek.
Sorry. Make that anything but Greek.
Last year at this time, Theocharidis was still in his native country, playing in Greece's strongest league and speaking his first language.
That's where he met Punahou and Stanford alum Mike Lambert.
"I was getting zero offers from universities," Theocharidis said. "But Mike talked to Mr. Wilton about me."
Who: Pacific (10-15, 6-11) at Hawaii (17-9, 11-6)
What: Final regular-season matches
When: Tonight and tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center.
Theocharidis was worried about getting into school, because his English was rusty. As it turned out, he had little difficulty with the placement test.
Still, because he hadn't spoken English regularly for five years, Theocharidis needed an adjustment period.
"I had some problems communicating in class and with my teammates at first (last fall)," he said.
But Theocharidis has always been fluent in volleyball.
Wilton said the 6-foot-2 freshman is one of the steadiest Rainbows. Theocharidis averages a team-high 6.24 kills-per-game, and is ninth nationally.
"He is in the same world-class hitting category as (former UH All-American) Yuval Katz," KFVE analyst Chris McLachlin said. "Both players see two-man blocks a lot. The sign of a great outside hitter is one who has a variety of shots to beat that two-man block. It's a power and finesse situation, and he's got a lot of both."
Freshman middle Geronimo Chala tries to block Theocharidis in practice. And since his future might be as an outside hitter, Chala takes extra note of Theocharidis' technique.
"He has great angle shots, great wrist movement," Chala said. "But it's his hand-eye coordination that makes him a special hitter, a guy who can get through, over or around a 6-9 blocker."
Wilton said that because he is such a good hitter, some of Theocharidis' other talents aren't always evident, and the coach plans to expand his role next season.
"He has an effective shot no matter what the situation," Wilton said. "But he's also a good passer."
And he's tough.
He showed his grit last month, when, suffering from a stomach illness, he came off a hospital bed only hours earlier to lead injury-riddled Hawaii against Pepperdine. The Rainbows rode the momentum to beat the then-No. 1 Waves the next night.
Theocharidis said the Stan Sheriff Center fans shouldn't mistake his dour expression for homesickness.
"Not at all. I've been waiting 20 years for my independence, so I don't want to go back to Greece yet," he said. "My second family is here. The arena has embraced me."
Wilton said he'd still like to see more emotion from Theocharidis.
"When he's at his best, he's animated," Wilton said. "Sometimes he looks like Mr. Poker Face."
When this is relayed to Theocharidis, he laughs. Another strange American phrase for him to catalog.
Ka Leo O Hawaii