Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, January 3, 2002


Fomer UH forward Luc-Arthur Vebobe won the Midnight Ohana slam-dunk contest.

Vebobe leaves ’Bows

The Hawaii forward returns to
France to play pro ball

By Cindy Luis

The extremes of Hawaii's road trip this week were mirrored by the events of yesterday.

From El Paso, Texas, to Boise, Idaho.

From conference player of the week winner to the loss of a player with great potential.

Such were the ups and downs of the Rainbows as they prepared for today's Western Athletic Conference game at UTEP.

Yesterday morning, UH learned that senior guard Predrag Savovic, the team scoring leader in wins over Fresno State and Nevada, was chosen as WAC Player of the Week.

Last night, coach Riley Wallace told the team that junior forward Luc-Arthur Vebobe returned home to France to pursue a pro career. Vebobe left Honolulu on a plane last night.

"It was a surprise because no one knew he was thinking about leaving," Wallace said last night in a telephone call from El Paso. "He's a very nice young man and perhaps this is why he did it the way he did.

"Depth-wise it hurts us. But we have to move on with the season."

Hawaii (11-2, 2-0) plays UTEP (5-8, 2-0) today at 4 p.m. Hawaii time.

Wallace said he did not speak with Vebobe. The 6-foot-9 transfer from Foothill College in California spoke with team psychologists Dr. Michael D'Andrea and Dr. Judy Daniels yesterday. D'Andrea said that Vebobe was looking at a pro contract with a team that would be close to his family in Antibes, France, with an arrangement for an apartment.

"He told Judy that it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up," D'Andrea said.

Vebobe was ill Sunday with what was thought to be strep throat. He came to practice Monday morning at the Stan Sheriff Center but was told to go back to the dorm to pack then see a doctor for medication. Vebobe did not return to catch the team bus that was headed to Honolulu Airport. Efforts to reach him at the dorm by UH coaches, teammates and school officials were unsuccessful.

"We were concerned for him personally," said Wallace. "We had people out looking for him to make sure he was OK.

"The players were surprised with this. But I think they knew something was up when he didn't make the plane."

It came as a real surprise to assistant coach Jackson Wheeler, who recruited Vebobe, a junior college All-American.

"I think he really needed those early games to get into our system," said Wheeler.

Vebobe sat out the first six games of the season due to an NCAA-mandated suspension for competing in a pro league.

Since becoming eligible for the Dec. 10 game against Alcorn State, Vebobe played in six of seven games. He did not play in Hawaii's victory over Georgia in the Rainbow Classic.

Vebobe was the team's only player "who plays above the rim," according to Wallace. He won the slam-dunk contest at October's Midnight Ohana.

Vebobe was averaging 3.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 10.7 minutes a game. In last week's WAC contests, the reserve played 17 minutes and had six points and two rebounds.

"We were looking to get him more playing time," said Wallace.

At the other end of the spectrum was the award for Savovic, the second WAC citation of his three-year UH career.

Against Fresno State, Savovic scored a season-high 23 points and grabbed six rebounds. He had 19 points and was 5 of 10 from 3-point range against Nevada.

For the week, he averaged 21 points and four rebounds. Savovic also shot .467 (7 of 15) from 3-point range and hit all nine of his free throw attempts.

"I don't know if it means anything," Wallace said of the weekly honor. "As long as the team keeps winning, I don't think the players care about things like this.

"We had a good practice today. They hustled. Now we have to put that on the court."

UH Athletics

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