UH's Campbell tries to be a cut above the rest


POSTED: Thursday, February 05, 2009

It was time for a change. Paul Campbell knew it, but was waiting for the right moment.




Fresno State (9-13, 1-6 WAC) at Hawaii (10-11, 2-7)

        When: 7 tonight

TV: KFVE, Ch. 5


Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM



So, on the first day he arrived home in Toronto last summer, the Canadian shaved his shoulder-length hair completely off.

Campbell, a 6-foot-10 junior on the Hawaii men's basketball team, has carried a closely shorn look this season after a variety of creative hairstyles as a sophomore.

“;I don't know, I guess it shows like I matured a little,”; Campbell said. “;I had braids all through high school and my (college) freshman year, and that's I guess what people really knew me as: the tall guy with the braids. I felt like, just get rid of the stigma.”;

Campbell shed the dreadlocks and evolved into a starter in the post for the Rainbow Warriors, thanks mostly to his consistent and tireless effort in team practices.

He was always a gifted shot blocker and offensive rebounder, but has ratcheted up his post game and basketball smarts to the point that coach Bob Nash has given him the starting nod in 10 of 21 games for 10-11 Hawaii (2-7 Western Athletic Conference).

“;He's a clear-headed guy, knows what he wants in life, and works real hard at trying to deliver it,”; Nash said. “;When you find a guy like that that's willing to do whatever it takes to win, and he's a very supportive teammate, that's all that you can ask for. (Ask) that he gives you maximum effort every time out, and that's what Paul does.”;

Campbell's grabbed six more offensive rebounds than defensive boards this season, and along with swingman Roderick Flemings, is a primary reason why Hawaii leads the WAC in offensive rebounding. The tip-in is his specialty.

At least one teammate thinks Campbell's improved play is derived from his hair—or lack of it.

“;Oh, it's all in the hair. All in the hair,”; said post teammate Bill Amis, who held up his hands and laughed. “;I wanted to be the one to cut it, but he went and got it somewhere else.”;

Campbell did a double take when informed of this.

“;Oh, wow. I wouldn't let him do that,”; Campbell said. “;That wouldn't have happened.”;

OK, he might be somewhat guarded about the 'do—but his supportive nature in practices has been a constant. Campbell is quick to pat himself on the chest to take responsibility when a play breaks down, and just as swift to pick teammates up when they get down on themselves.

“;He's just a great all-around guy. He's a guy you want on your team,”; said Amis, who considers Campbell the team's most improved player. “;He's always gonna work hard. He's always going to boost you up and he's been there for me on certain occasions, to keep my head right.”;

As a reserve who played sparingly last season, Campbell was somewhat turnover prone, but he has enhanced his game dramatically in that aspect. He and point guard Kareem Nitoto are the only two Rainbows with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (15 to 11).

His best game to date came against Louisiana Tech at home on Jan. 5, when he went for 13 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Overall, he's averaged 2.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per game.

Because of his aggressive shot-blocking style, the lean Campbell is one of the more foul-prone Rainbows. As a result, he's made early trips to the bench in some of his starts after picking up two quick personals, contributing to his limited court time. Nash is confident he'll adapt as he continues to mature.

“;We saw some very positive (things last) week in the way he handled the offense,”; Nash said. “;He started off really good at New Mexico State, then got into foul trouble that hurt him. But he's continued to work hard, make progress.”;

Campbell's road to being a Rainbow started at Northview Heights Secondary School in Toronto, where he grew up a diehard Raptors fan. He isn't a focal point in his team's offense now, but was back then, when he averaged 24 points and 12 boards per game. But since his freshman year of junior college at Arkansas-Fort Smith, he's accepted a workmanlike role (he averaged 3.4 points and 4.3 rebounds there) and chose Hawaii over Nevada, Winthrop and Evansville.

The weather had a big part to play in that. Being Canadian, Campbell is naturally accustomed to the cold, but also had an affinity for island culture since he visited family in Jamaica often in his youth.

“;Living in Toronto, it's cool—I like the snow and stuff like that,”; he said. “;But you can't beat warm weather.”;

Oppressive heat was one reason why Campbell decided to shave his head; he doesn't regret it one bit.

Does he have anything to say to UH fans who miss his braided look(s) from last season?

“;I'm sorry I cut it, but I don't know—it's a new look, new man,”; Campbell said.