Friday, November 16, 2001
[ UH BASKETBALL ]
Flying HighThe tattoo says it all: "The sky is the limit."
Guard Carl English helped UH to
the top of the WAC as a freshman
last year; as he enters his sophomore
season, the sky is the limit
By Cindy Luis
Carl English has worn his motto on his well-defined left bicep for four years. Even at age 17, he knew where he wanted to go and how to get there.
Basketball was his love and it would be his ride out of Patrick's Cove, Newfoundland. One can't go much farther east in Canada than English's hometown -- population 50 -- on the Cape Shore.
No one can go farther west to play college basketball than Hawaii.
"It's a long way from home," the Hawaii sophomore said as he prepared for tonight's season opener against Norfolk State. "It's tough being away. But I've learned to deal with it because I have my goals and this is how I'm going to reach them. I knew basketball would be a way out.
"Coming here is an experience of a lifetime. You can go to the mainland and get more exposure, but you can come here and see why people call it paradise."
English has traded one island for another, substituting his beloved codfish for mahimahi. The 6-foot-5 guard also has traded up in honors, going from Fatima Academy's MVP in 1999 as a senior to the MVP of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament last March as a freshman.
English's falling 5-footer with 1.8 seconds left in regulation against host Tulsa in the WAC title game was the shot heard 'round the NCAA basketball world. It lifted the Rainbows into overtime, where they defeated the Golden Hurricane and advanced to the Big Dance for the first time since 1994.
English, who finished with a career-high 25 points that game, lists winning the WAC championship as his greatest athletic thrill ... so far.
"We're coming off a positive season, such a high from last year," he said. "I can't wait for (tonight) to get it going again.
"We've worked amazingly hard in preseason. It's tough to compare this team to last year because we lost good players in Troy (Ostler) and Nerijus (Puida). But I think we've got a lot of potential."
His basketball potential was there from an early age. And so was his dedication.
His aunt and guardian Betty McGrath told the Star-Bulletin how her nephew practiced his shots in the snow on a homemade basket wearing gloves.
But he and his talent were tucked away in a remote region off Placentia Bay. That is, until the summer of 1999, when English toured with an adidas team of Canadian prep all-stars and came to New York.
Rainbow assistant Scott Rigot won the recruiting battle against schools such as Miami, Notre Dame and Bradley after seeing English in an all-star game. During his campus visit, English was won over by the Stan Sheriff Center, the friendly people of Hawaii, his future teammates and head coach Riley Wallace.
"At first I was intimidated by him,'' English said of Wallace. "But he's like a father figure to me, I'm that trusting of him. I know I can go see him anytime and talk about basketball and other things.
"He's different on the court, yells a lot. But you know he's trying to make you better."
English's own father and mother died in a house fire when he was 5. He was raised by his aunt and late uncle, in a house full of love and children.
He is the second-youngest of nine siblings and cousins, and he loves kids. It was evident Wednesday when the Rainbows hosted about a dozen children from the Shriners Hospital at the Sheriff Center.
English befriended a young girl in a wheelchair, pushing her up and down the court, helping her pass a basketball. His first telephone call after the session was to his girlfriend back home.
"I told her that sometimes we take so much for granted," English said. "How can you complain about a bad practice when you have your health? Some of these kids may never walk.
"We do community service, but I really like giving back to the kids. Pushing the little girl around ... it meant a lot for me to be able to make her happy."
So far, the coaching staff is very happy with English. Because of his versatility, he is practicing at the shooting and point guard positions, as well as small forward.
"He's a very talented young man who is improving rapidly," said Wallace. "He's a very intense player, has a burning desire to win. He's got all the tools."
He also has talented friends, one of whom he recommended to the Rainbow coaches. Fellow Canadian Phil Martin, a 6-8 forward, joined English in the fall of 1999; they redshirted together their first year, English due to an ankle injury.
"After last season, I knew what I had to work on,'' said English. "Over the summer, I lifted every day and worked a lot on my ballhandling.
"Summer is the time to get better and if you want a playing spot, you've got to work hard over the summer. Everyone came back in shape. This is a very special team, but we have a long ways to go. How far we go all depends on us."
When one reaches for the sky, everything else looks pretty close.
Notes: UH forward Mindaugas Burneika was cleared to play by the NCAA yesterday. Hawaii still awaits word on Predrag Savovic and Luc-Arthur Vebobe. ... "The Rainbow Circle of Excellence," the book chronicling Hawaii's 2000-01 season, was released yesterday. The book, co-authored by Wallace and Drs. Michael D'Andrea and Judith Daniels, retails for $14.95 and is available at the UH campus bookstore, the Rain-Bow-Tique shops at the Sheriff Center and Ward Centre, and online at www.uhrainbowtique.com. Three book signings are scheduled: Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Sheriff Center hospitality room; Nov. 29, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., UH bookstore; Dec. 5, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Rain-Bow-Tique Ward Centre. ... This week's issue of Sports Illustrated ranks the top 65 teams. Fresno State, at No 39, is the only team named from the WAC.
After a two-year blackout of national television, the Rainbow Classic basketball tournament will once again be seen on the mainland.
CNN/SI to broadcast Rainbow Classic
CNN/SI (Oceanic 23/Digital 220) yesterday agreed to carry four days of championship bracket play of the eight-team tournament, scheduled for Dec. 19-22. An estimated 20 million households receive the channel in major markets from New York to Los Angeles.
"It gets in on the ground floor and it will help bring back some good teams," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said.
ESPN, which has the rights to Western Athletic Conference telecasts, had the first right of refusal. The June 15 deadline passed and CNN/SI picked up the rights.
"I think they're going to do it live each night," said KHNL general manager John Fink, whose sister station KFVE has the broadcast rights to UH sports. "We've retained some of the commercial rights and are negotiating two minutes at halftime to use for promoting the state."
The ESPN contract with the WAC does not allow for national telecasts on other channels with the exception of the Rainbow Classic.
Ka Leo O Hawaii