Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, November 16, 2001


Hawaii Pacific men's basketball coach Tony Sellitto, who
has coached in Hawaii for 37 years, is retiring at the end
of this season, his 14th at HPU.

End of an Era

HPU's Tony Sellitto hopes his last
season is his team's best

By Brandon Lee

It was only an exhibition, a tune-up for the upcoming season, but Tony Sellitto was coaching basketball on Monday night just like it was any other game in his previous 37 years of prowling local sidelines.

Of course he wore his trademark shorts. He also exhibited his other trademark: the yelling -- at times absolutely screaming -- but always passionate voice.

One could not lose track of Sellitto on Monday night, and like his teams have done more times than not over the past four decades, the Sea Warriors won the game.

"No, not even close," said Sellitto, 64, when asked if he had changed in his years of coaching. "As long as they've got the lights and scoreboard on, I don't take any game as just a walk in the park. Once that game is on, I do not take prisoners -- mine or the other team's.

"I want to win the game, I want to play hard and I'm very intense. After the game is over, I'm like a different person."

But forget about Sellitto's style for a moment. Even he can't fully explain where it comes from.

After 24 years at Maryknoll High School -- where he won a state championship -- and the last 13 with HPU, the only person to bring a national basketball title of any kind to Hawaii (1993 NAIA Division I crown) will be stepping down from coaching after the 2001-02 basketball season.

And Sellitto's many players -- regardless of his courtside tirades -- have never doubted that the man who can both scream on the court and be gentle off it cares about them deeply.

"He told us this summer he was going to yell at us a lot," said senior center and newcomer Zack Anderson. "But he does it to motivate us. He told us that if he's not yelling at us, then we should be worried because he thinks we can be really good. He's really, really caring, real frank and open about his opinions on anything."

The Sea Warriors play their first regular-season game in Sellitto's farewell season tomorrow night, when they host Nebraska-Kearney at Mid-Pacific Institute at 7:30. They start Pacific West Conference play against longtime rival Brigham Young-Hawaii on Jan. 7.

Sellitto is already the winningest men's college basketball coach in Hawaii history; he has guided the Sea Warriors to eight 20-win seasons in establishing a 277-127 career record. While another puts him at or possibly over the threshold of 300 wins, HPU has suffered the only losing seasons of his tenure the past two years.

Hoping to reverse this trend through veteran leadership, Sellitto has six seniors returning from last year's team (11-16 overall, 6-12 PacWest). Completing his roster is Anderson, another senior who sat out last year due to injury (Alvin Stephenson), three juniors and just one freshman.

"We do have a lot of experience -- we have eight seniors -- and I hope we'll be able to (have a winning record again)," Sellitto said. "We're very good shooters. If we can improve in our consistency in shooting the 3 -- because even our big men can shoot the 3 -- I don't think we will be handled."

In particular, the HPU skipper will be relying on two PacWest all-stars --swingman Nick Spajic and shooting guard Nash Subotic -- as well as Stephenson to shoulder the load.

Spajic is the conference's leading returning scorer (18.3 points per game), and is deadly from all areas of the floor, but particularly from 3-point range (49 percent). He also pulls down six rebounds a game and typically matches up with the opposing team's best offensive player. But the availability of his all-around skills are questionable for tomorrow, due to an ankle sprain he sustained in practice early this week.

Subotic (17.0 ppg) and Stephenson (10.3 ppg two seasons ago) can score from anywhere on the court, as well. Sellitto also points to major contributions from returning post players Jeff Jensen and Larz Stewart as keys to overall success.

With the former 16-team PacWest pared down to just the four local Division II schools plus Montana State-Billings and Western New Mexico this year -- and an automatic postseason bid still on the line -- Sellitto likes his chances to finish his final campaign with a ninth trip to a national tournament.

MSU-Billings was the highest scoring team in the PacWest last year, but gave up the most points. Western New Mexico managed just one win in its 27 games last year.

Still, Sellitto expects all six teams to be competitive. He said that both Chaminade and Hawaii-Hilo have raised the level of their programs to compete well with both HPU and BYUH, and that "the intensity between the Hawaii schools is unbelievable and will never change."

The competition is far from what Sellitto will miss most after this year. Remarkable as it may be for those who judge him only by his courtside manner, the relationships with his players is what he gets most sentimental about.

"All I can think about is (this season's) 27 games, that's all I care about," Sellitto said. "(But) you get so attached to these kids, you're really close and you really want them to do well. Other than that, I don't think I'll really miss much."


In a conference that features run-and-gun athleticism, BYUH is going to try to steal the title away using good, old-fashioned size.

The Seasiders are the biggest small-college team in Hawaii, relying on returning center Scott Salisbury to have an advantage in the paint, while its quick perimeter players play opponents even.

Salisbury led the Seasiders in rebounding last year with 7.2 per game and blocks with 12 in 19 starts. He will get a chance to improve upon those numbers this year, as he only played 23.6 minutes per game last season.

Helping Salisbury will be senior guard Brian Skinner, who was one of only two Seasiders who scored in double figures last year. BYUH lost Kerry Hendrickson, last year's leading scorer, to graduation, making it Skinner's offense.

The Seasiders lost seven players from last year's 14-13 team, and the new bunch will not be eased into the season.

This season will be the anticipated debut of Japanese point guard Yuta Tabuse, a freshman who sat out last year after back surgery.

Tabuse has recovered completely and has given coach Ken Wagner everything he expected early in training camp.

Wagner has put together the toughest schedule among the Hawaii schools, sandwiching early trips to California and Alaska around their always demanding Thanksgiving Tournament. Wagner says he is willing to take the hit for the league, as long as his players can get through November and December with some semblance of confidence.

"It is a chance to help our whole league," Wagner said. "We are playing some of the best teams in our region, and if we can go through there with some wins, it can only help. I think volleyball has shown us what happens if we don't have some cross play."

Returnees: Brian Skinner (6-2, Sr., G), Scott Salisbury (6-8, Jr., C), Jeremy Frampton (5-7, Jr. G).

Newcomers: Yuta Tabuse (5-8, Fr., G), Keli'i Naihe (6-7, Sr., F), Pablo Broering (6-11, Jr., C), Alexis Foyle (6-6, Jr., F), Dallas Jensen (6-2, Jr., G), Beau Nobmann (6-1, So., G), Shawn Broadnax (6-3, Fr., G/F), Tyree Gardner (6-0, Fr., G).

Last year: 14-13, 8-10 PacWest.

Go-to players: Because Skinner is more of a jump shooter and a 3-point threat, expect newcomer Alexis Foyle to step up and become the team's leading scorer. Should Foyle not progress the way he is expected to, Keli'i Naihe can put up some points.

Stopper: Although he may be their best offensive player, BYUH counts on Salisbury for his defense in the post, where he has proven to be a deterrent.

X-factor: People around the state have been raving about Tabuse, but nobody has actually seen him in live game action. Should Tabuse be all that he is cracked up to be, the Seasiders will be a force in the conference. Should he falter, the Seasiders could find themselves talented but rudderless.


After leading the Silverswords to their only winning campaign of the last 14 in his first year at the helm last season, coach Aaron Griess acknowledges that expectations are high.

Gone are leading scorer C.J. Cowgill and triple-double threat David Toya, but Griess believes his returnees and a couple of his newcomers are capable of stepping in to pick up some of the slack.

"We did set the bar high last year, but we're going to try to match it," he said. "(But) this year, it's going to be more of a balanced attack, more of a by-committee thing, rather than a two-headed monster (Cowgill and Toya)."

Returnees: Igor Beljanski (6-7, Sr., C); John Kirk (5-10, Jr., PG); Donald Makupson (6-1, So., G); Albert Powell (6-2, Sr., G); Keleko Stietzel (5-9, So., G); Jaborri Thomas (6-4, Jr., G).

Newcomers: Daniel Bales (6-7, Jr., F); Leon Ballard (6-5, Jr., F); Willie Davis (6-9, Jr., C); Mike Donegan (6-6, Jr., F); Rahshaw McAfee (6-3, Jr., G); Kashif Reyes (5-10, Jr., G); Donald Rogers (6-2, So., G).

Last year: 16-11, 10-8 PacWest.

Go-to players: The Silverswords are looking for more consistency out of their highlight-reel player Jaborri Thomas and shooting guard Albert Powell.

Stopper: Griess believes newcomer Rahshaw McAfee has the ability to blanket the opposition.

X-factor: Mike Donegan. Griess said that McAfee's teammate from last year's Saddleback (Calif.) College squad can "do a little bit of everything," and hopes Donegan's well-rounded skills can help to alleviate the loss of Toya.


It's all going according to plan.

Last year, Hawaii-Hilo head coach Jeff Law enjoyed his first winning season as the Vulcans' head coach. Now he wants to keep it going and improve upon it.

"We snuck up on everybody and that is nice," Law said. "It is not going to happen like that this year. The most consistent team from January to the end is going to win."

Law returns only a single senior from last year's team. Luckily it is one of his best.

Scott Prather led the team in assists and steals last year, while putting up 15.5 points per game. He will run the point this year. Law says that his lone senior is the kind of ball player that the other teams in the Pacific West Conference have grown to hate.

"He looks deceiving; a lot of people don't take him seriously," Law said of his point guard from Pula, Maui. "He has grown up over the years and does everything that needs to be done. He is a quick little SOB, the kind of guy you don't want to recruit but don't want to play against, either."

Prather will have to grow up even further this year, without Alan Thomas to make him look good. Thomas led the team in scoring last year but graduated along with Stanley Ibia. The pair is taking 32.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game with it.

Asked to pick up the slack for Thomas and Ibia will be Kyle Bartholomew, who comes into this season a lot stronger than last, when he contributed 25.5 minutes a game to Law's cause. David LaQua, Law's sixth man last year, should also get chances to start this season.

Returnees: Scott Prather (5-11, Sr., G), Kyle Bartholomew (6-4, Jr., F), David LaQua (6-2, Jr. G), Ryan Hogue (6-6, So., F), Albert Keim (6-5, Jr., F), Michael Shumate (6-2, Jr., G).

Newcomers: Brady Hyde (6-2, Jr., G), Mike Palmerston (6-1, Jr. G), Jason Hyde (6-5, Jr., F), Derek MgBeke (6-3, Jr., G), Gerreth Read (6-9, Jr., F), Dave Wiggins (7-0, Jr., C), Karl McGuire (5-9, Fr., G), Stanley Ballo (6-1, So., G).

Last year: 16-11, 11-7 PacWest

Go-to players: Law refuses to choose one guy as the go-to guy, because his definition of the term means a player who can post up and score at the end of games. Whatever play he draws up at the end of games will involve Derek MgBeke, a junior college transfer from Los Angeles City College. "He's the closest thing we have to an Alan Thomas," Law says.

Stopper: Scott Prather is Hilo's best defensive player. Although Prather has always been listed as a point guard, Law regards him as a "lead guard" who is expected to disrupt attacks with his quickness and his heady play.

X-factor: Law is waiting for one of a trio of big guys to step up and take some pressure off his jump-shooting team. Ryan Hogue, Garreth Read and Albert Keim are all even as the end of training camp nears, and Law hopes that one of them can step up into a leadership role.


Returnees: John Avilla (5-9, Sr., point guard); Jeff Jensen (6-7, Sr., F); Dragan Karanovic (6-5, Sr., G/F); Nick Spajic (6-4, Sr., G/F); Alvin Stephenson (6-3, Sr., G); Larz Stewart (6-7, Sr., F); Nash Subotic (6-5, Sr., shooting guard).

Newcomers: Zack Anderson (6-10, Sr. C); Jacob Avilla (5-10, Fr., PG); Leandro Maruoka (6-8, Jr., F/C); Ty Riley (6-4, Jr., F); Nic Walters (6-0, Jr., PG).

Star-Bulletin reporter Jerry Campany contributed to this report.

Hawaii Pacific
U.H. Hilo

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