In his first practices with Hawaii, slotback candidate Davone Bess has shown coaches he has good hands.

Bess impresses

The candidate for one of UH’s
slotback spots is making big plays
in practice after doing time
behind bars

Even after the judge had spoken, Davone Bess was sure there was a mistake. It was some kind of crazy joke that he was being locked up in a juvenile facility for 15 months, just a few weeks after his 2003 graduation.

Kamana'o, 2 alumna to train with U.S. team

Current Hawaii setter Kanoe Kamana'o and former Rainbow Wahine players Robyn Ah Mow-Santos and Melissa Villaroman are among 35 players who will train with the USA Women's National Volleyball Team later this year at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Kamana'o was the national freshman of the year in 2003 and a first-team All-America selection this past season. Ah Mow-Santos (1993-96) was a two-time All-America selection and a two-time Olympian (2000-04). Villaroman (2000-03) was a two-time All-Western Athletic Conference libero.

Also selected was former Minnesota setter Lindsey Berg, a Punahou graduate and 2004 Olympian. Heather Bown, former UH All-America middle blocker and two-time Olympian, has decided to take a break from the national team but is expected to return.

Team USA will have two entries in the USAV Open championships in Denver, May 28-June 4. Other competitions include the Montreux Volley Masters in Switzerland, the Pan American Cup in the Dominican Republic and the World Grand Prix in Asia.

Didn't they know who he was? He was the Davone Bess, the star athlete and all-around good guy from Skyline High School in Oakland, Calif., the same Davone Bess who was headed to Oregon State on a football scholarship.

Yes, there was a mistake. And Bess realized too late he was the one who made it by letting friends put stolen goods in his car, and they were caught.

And, yes, they did know who he was. But it didn't matter.

"On the first day, I thought I was going to get out, that they would realize I didn't belong in there. But as the days went on and on I realized I wasn't getting out, and I had to think of Plan B," he said.

That meant using his time wisely. Bess improved his mind and body, and avoided people who might test his strength of character, his resolve to get back on the right path.

Bess, now a freshman slotback at Hawaii, looks upon his time incarcerated as a blessing.

"I got bigger physically and stronger mentally. I had time to think about what I was going to do with my life," he said. "It woke me up."

It was one thing for Bess to believe in himself after he spent more than a year locked up while his football-playing classmates acclimated themselves to college, most redshirting, some playing. Would someone else? Had his opportunity passed, vanished with one mistake? Who would take a chance on him now?

Bess' high school coach, John Beam, didn't hesitate. He called another of his former players, Keith Bhonapha, and told him about Bess. Bhonapha, a graduate-assistant at UH, told head coach June Jones.

But only after Bhonapha was convinced. He was eager to help a kid from his old neighborhood, from the same high school for which he played. But he's a budding young apprentice coach, and his credibility was at stake, too.

"I asked (Beam), over and over, 'What kind of kid is he?' I had to know," Bhonapha said. "Then I sat down with (Jones) and laid out the whole situation. He said, 'OK, if you say so.' "

Jones had been down this road before. Six years ago he took a chance on Pisa Tinoisamoa in a similar situation, and it ended happily ever after. Bess' story is barely past the Introduction and into Chapter One. But so far, so good.

"I'd have to say if it wasn't for KB, I wouldn't be here," Bess said. "He and Coach Beam, and my cousin, (another Skyline grad, former UH safety) Rob Grant. Rob told me how it is out here, that this is a good place to be, for school and football."

EVERY FOOTBALL camp has its dog days.

Legs ache from miles of pass routes, brains are numbed by new playbook wrinkles and eyelids become heavy from three weeks of 5 a.m. wake-up calls.

But after 12 spring practices, Hawaii's receivers still have a lot of pep in their collective step. Competition for four open positions has a lot to do with it.

"They're a little tired, especially going four days in a row, but the tempo was pushed up (yesterday)," receivers coach Ron Lee said. "They're pushing themselves more."

Among the energetic group yesterday, Bess was a standout. He's been on campus since only January, but he looked like a veteran yesterday, making acrobatic catches play after play.

"He's also been very consistent," Lee said. "He's made some mistakes like everyone else, but he understands the system. He makes plays during critical times, like during 11-on-11. He's got great hands."

One play he uses them to catch a ball thrown at his shoetops. On the next, he leaps, extending his 5-foot-11 body fully to make a jumping catch.

"He can catch and he makes good cuts, and he's a hard worker," UH senior safety Leonard Peters said. "He makes us work hard out there, too."

Bess played quarterback -- among other positions -- at Skyline, and that's helped him pick up the run-and-shoot offense quickly.

"I thought it would be really horrible; everyone says the offense is hard to learn," he said. "I kind of feared it going in. But it's a whole lot of common sense, basically about finding open spots."

Bess said his energy comes from discipline and preparation.

"I make sure I keep my legs fresh. I get out here early and make sure I get real loose. I'm just looking at it one day at a time," he said.

LIKE A BIG brother, Bhonapha checks on Bess frequently, making sure he's adjusting to campus life.

"It's not just football and school. But as a person, he's doing really well," Bhonapha said. "And he spends a lot of time at the academic center."

Lee and Jones aren't making any promises about playing time yet. Half a dozen slotbacks are in open competition for two positions. But it's clear Bess has made an impression, in every way possible.

"He's a great kid," Lee said. "Quiet, humble, appreciative. He fits in beautifully. The kids and the coaches love him."

Jones smiled when asked about Bess. It's the smile he reserves for when his favorite players are mentioned.

"I asked him pre-practice, 'How much do you appreciate this? Is it better than the slammer?' He said, 'Oh, yeah.' He's taking full advantage of it and he's doing everything we've asked of him. I hate to put the pressure on him 10 days into his career, but he has a chance to be the best slot I've ever coached, pros included," said Jones, who will probably have one drafted by the NFL next week in Chad Owens.

"He's just got to keep working at it."

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