Alika back as Vulcans
play Rainbows tomorrow

By Cindy Luis

Home may be where the heart is, but for Alika Smith, home is anywhere the basketball bounces.

For four seasons, that meant the Stan Sheriff Center, where the homegrown guard shot his way into the University of Hawaii record book. For the first time since his career ended in 1998, Smith will be back on the Sheriff Center court, this time as an assistant coach for Hawaii-Hilo.

The Vulcans, 5-2 after yesterday's 89-81 victory over Fort Lewis College, take on the 2-0 Rainbows in a 7 p.m. exhibition tomorrow. It will be the fourth game in seven days for Hilo and the Division II Vulcans' fourth match against Division I competition in 11 days.

"This is our marathon time," said Vulcans coach Jeff Law, a Rainbow assistant for eight seasons. "But we're still learning to play as a team and putting it together."

The Vulcans are doing it with a mix of old and new talent. They miss the leadership and points of four-year guard Scott Prather, last year's leading assist man and scorer, but have found a new floor general in senior guard Brady Hyde.

"We miss Scott, but Brady is doing well at the point," said Smith, in his second year at Hilo. "He's really stepped it up this season.

"We've got some scorers in Kyle (senior forward Bartholomew), who's struggling a bit, and Ryan (junior guard Abrahams), who's working into our offense. The thing with us is our big scoring hasn't been coming from one person. One night it's one person, one night it's another. As long as someone keeps stepping it up, we'll be OK."

Smith, an all-state player at Kalaheo High, is pleased how local players are developing in the Vulcans' program. He regrets the "one who got away" (Kalaheo product Ikaika Alama-Francis, a walk-on freshman forward with the Rainbows), but Hilo has five island players out of 15 on the roster.

Besides Bartholomew (Waiakea), other island representatives are returning junior forward Ryan Hogue (Kalaheo) and sophomore guard Stanley Ballo (Ka'u), and newcomers sophomore guard Kimo Keiter-Charles (Hilo) and junior forward Joe Marsh (Seabury Hall).

"It's interesting to coach a player who has also played for my dad," said Smith, referring to Hogue who also played for Smith's father, Pete, at Kalaheo. "It makes it easier because I know how he was coached in high school.

"My father is probably the best coach out there, he's just awesome. He's the brains behind my brains. And Jeff Law ... I'm having the time of my life learning under him. Between Law and my dad I've learned a hell of a lot and, hopefully, if I go on to a head coaching job, I'll take a page from both of them."

Smith's career book will include his undergraduate degree in sociology, which he will receive next spring. He's considering a master's degree at UH in speech pathology, something that will help his resume if he coaches at the college level and something he can fall back on in case he doesn't want to continue coaching.

"The master's degree will pay off, one way or the other," said Smith, one of nine Rainbows to hit the 1,000-point mark. "I really enjoy working with kids."

Smith said he keeps up with the Rainbows and was in the arena to see Hawaii's season-opening win over Arkansas-Little Rock. He's concerned with UH's height.

"They're big and we've had a problem rebounding," he said. "But' I'm looking forward to being back home and back in the arena.

"I don't know how other people feel, but I miss the arena. The court's different, the uniforms are different and the players are different. But I'm feeling that same type of urgency to go out and play. Could I still? I don't know but I'd like to try."

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