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Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, January 13, 2001

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

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Shimonovic to
return Feb. 15

Hawaii players are full of life
at practice after the NCAA
rules the freshman can play

By Dave Reardon

The steps were lively, the passes crisp. People actually laughed and smiled in the post-practice huddle yesterday.

A little breeze even blew through the doors of stuffy Gym II, as the University of Hawaii men's basketball team prepared for tonight's game against Tulsa.

The Rainbows (6-8, 0-3 WAC) are mired in a four-game losing streak, but team morale received a major boost yesterday as freshman post player Haim Shimonovic was declared eligible by the NCAA.

The 6-foot-10 Shimonovic has practiced with the team all season but appeared only in exhibition games. The projected starter can play starting with the Feb. 15 home game against Southern Methodist.


Bullet What: WAC men's basketball
Bullet Who: Hawaii vs. Tulsa
Bullet Where: Stan Sheriff Center, 7 p.m.
Bullet Radio: 1420-AM
Bullet TV: KFVE
Bullet RealAudio: 'Net broadcast Click Here

"I'm glad, but it took a long time," Shimonovic said. "It was frustrating seeing everyone play when you can't after you work hard with them in practice."

Hawaii coach Riley Wallace was obviously pleased.

"We're very happy with the decision and glad it's finally over," Wallace said. "We now know what we have to look forward to. Having a great kid in the program for five games of this season, the (WAC) tournament and three more years after that."

Questions arose over the summer regarding Shimonovic's eligibility due to his participation in Israel's Division I league. Shimonovic, from Rishon LeZion, Israel, participated in the league while serving in the Israeli army.

The NCAA determined that, although Shimonovic received no payment from the league other than out-of-pocket expenses, Division I is considered a professional league. The NCAA penalty is 22 games, amounting to the number of games he played in the Israeli league and the two preseason exhibitions he played in for Hawaii.

The university self-reported the potential violation last fall. The NCAA will look at the issue of foreign recruits' participation in their domestic leagues this April.

"What the NCAA determined is that there was a violation because he did play in a professional league," Wallace said. "It could have a been a lot worse. There was the possibility that he would have lost his entire eligibility.

"His parents were here for Christmas break and saw how everyone cared about their son and what a safe environment it was for him. They went back to Israel and made sure we got the proper documentation."

Shimonovic scored seven points and had 10 rebounds in 37 minutes in the exhibition games. He will be eligible to play against SMU (Feb. 15), Rice (Feb. 17), TCU (Feb. 22), San Jose State (March 1), UTEP (March 3) and the WAC Tournament (March 7-10 in Tulsa).

Wallace said it would make no sense to redshirt Shimonovic, since games missed due to redshirting would not count against the 22-game penalty.

The Rainbows got a more immediate boost when post Troy Ostler practiced well yesterday.

UH is 2-4 since the 6-foot-10 Ostler sprained his left ankle in a 100-86 victory over Alabama-Birmingham on Dec. 23. He has played some since the injury, but nowhere near the effectiveness that made him Hawaii's leading scorer and rebounder.

"Troy's back in there trying, and that picked them up, too," Wallace said.

The Rainbows will need every edge against young but battle-tested and balanced Tulsa.

Five Hurricane players average double-figures in scoring; 6-5 forward Marcus Hill (12.7), 6-6 forward David Shelton (12.6), 6-7 forward Kevin Johnson (11.9), 5-10 guard Dante Swanson (11.9), and 6-2 guard Greg Harrington (11.1).

Starting center Jack Ingram, a freshman, is one of six freshmen and sophomores among Tulsa's first nine players. Only 10 players made the trip.

"We're young," said Shelton, one of two seniors. "We have to take our time and execute rather than last year, when the guys could just go out and play."

Coach Buzz Peterson is new, too, taking over for Bill Self. Self led the Hurricane to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight last year and moved on to Illinois.

Tulsa's record (11-5, 1-1 WAC) includes losses to North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas and Fresno State.

"Our non-conference schedule was very demanding. We've had some ups and downs," Peterson said. "I told our players the season is a marathon, not a sprint."

Shelton is a preseason all-WAC selection. He remains in the sixth-man role he played for the Hurricane last year.

"It's OK. I get a chance to watch the game and get a feel for it," Shelton said.

Star-Bulletin sports editor Cindy Luis contributed to this report.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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