Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, July 11, 2001



UH officials working
to clear foreign players

By Dave Reardon

New University of Hawaii president Evan Dobelle said he supports the concept of international athletes playing for UH. But amid growing NCAA concerns about the eligibility of basketball players from overseas, Dobelle wants the UH athletic department to be proactive in determining the background of its foreign athletes.

UH was one of 52 Division I schools to receive a memorandum from the NCAA regarding the eligibility of specific basketball players from outside the United States.

The NCAA wants information about Rainbow forwards Mindaugas Burneika (Lithuania) and Bosko Radovic (Yugoslavia).

"The world plays basketball and we have 1,300 international students. I have no problem with international basketball players as long as they're not taking the spot of a player from Hawaii who is better," Dobelle told the Star-Bulletin yesterday.

"My concern is that if there is something with the NCAA, we are pre-emptive and must do something about it to find out what the deal is ahead of time," Dobelle added.

Hawaii coach Riley Wallace and athletic director Hugh Yoshida said they anticipated questions from the NCAA and had started working on answering them before receiving the NCAA letter.

Wallace said Burneika and Radovic, who are both in their native countries for the rest of the summer, have collected information the NCAA has requested regarding their playing backgrounds.

Yoshida said the information is being compiled to meet the NCAA's deadline next month.

The background of guard Predrag Savovic (Yugoslavia) was also questioned last spring, and center Haim Shimonovich (Israel) was suspended for 22 games after it was determined he had played in a league with professionals.

Wallace said the information includes whether players received compensation, had an agent, or were under contract in leagues they played in overseas. He said the answers are no to all three questions for the players involved.

But another aspect is if they played in leagues with pro players. Shimonovich did, but was not paid, other than expenses. Savovic said the same is true for him.

Wallace said the Shimonovich situation helped UH deal with the NCAA queries about Burneika, Radovic and Savovic.

But that doesn't mean he is happy with the NCAA's stance.

"No one seems to understand what the NCAA's agenda is with this. International kids have been playing for years and all of a sudden this comes out of the blue."

The NCAA says 340 international athletes play men's college basketball. UH has nine such players.

Bill Saum of the NCAA said the athletics structure in Europe is primarily a club-based system. Clubs often participate in the highest competitive league in their respective country against teams with players with pro experience.

Wallace said the setup is similar to what American players do in NCAA-sanctioned summer leagues, or special events such as when college all-stars played the U.S. Olympic team in Honolulu last year.

"I'm not so sure that if it comes up in a legal challenge that you wouldn't win (against the NCAA)," Wallace said. "I think that could be where it's headed."

Yoshida indicated the NCAA is trying to standardize recruiting worldwide.

Savovic, who will be a senior this year, was an all-Western Athletic Conference guard last season, scoring 17.6 points per game. Burneika (7.4 ppg) will also be a senior. Radovic averaged 5.8 points in five games as a freshman before suffering a season-ending injury. Shimonovich averaged 2.1 points in nine games in his freshman season.

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