Saturday, January 13, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 13, 2001

Rainbows' Shimonovic eligible to play starting Feb. 16

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

The good news is Haim Shimonovic can play basketball for Hawaii this season.

The not-so-good news is he won’t be eligible for another month.

After sitting out the first 14 games of his freshman season, Shimonovic finally received a ruling on his eligibility from the NCAA yesterday. In short, the 6-foot-10 center will have to sit out the same number of games (22) he played in a professional league in Israel prior to enrolling at UH.

After sitting out Hawaii’s next eight games, including tonight’s Western Athletic Conference contest against Tulsa, Shimonovic can don a Rainbow uniform for the first time on Feb. 15 against Southern Methodist.

"We’re happy with the decision," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "We now know what to look forward to. We’re happy for Haim because he will have three more years after this to play for us."

Still, the Rainbows could use him now.

Without Shimonovic and 6-10 senior Troy Ostler — who is expected to sit out his third consecutive game with a sprained left ankle — Hawaii will again start no player taller than 6-7.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Rainbows have lost four consecutive games to drop to 6-8, including an 0-3 start to the WAC season, without a true center in the lineup.

"What I’m concerned about most is us getting back into it mentally," Wallace said. "You have a bunch of young guys playing as much as we do, the losing can get to you. They just have to believe that they can compete without the guys who are hurt."

Phil Martin, a 6-7 freshman, will once again start at center, essentially in Shimonovic’s spot; Mindaugas Burneika, a 6-6 junior, will play power forward, or Ostler’s position.

"What we lose in size, we can make up for with quickness," Wallace said. "Our guys just have to buy into the system and understand that it will take all five of them playing together on the floor to make it work. It doesn’t matter which five."

What’s more, Hawaii will take on a Tulsa team that is apparently adjusting to new coach Buzz Peterson. The Golden Hurricane has won four of its last five games, and is 10-5 overall.

"They’re very quick; they get up and down the floor and transition well," Wallace said. "They won’t necessarily be that much bigger than us, but they’ll be quick."

Tulsa starts 6-10 Jack Ingram at center, but the freshman is averaging just 4.4 points in 17 minutes per game. Mostly, the Golden Hurricane run with five players 6-7 and shorter.

Two starters — Marcus Hill and Greg Harrington — return from last year’s team that went 32-5 and advanced to the championship game of the NCAA South Region. Also, 6-6 super-sub David Shelton normally replaces Ingram shortly into a game, and is second on the team with 12.6 points per game.

"We need to come out and play 40 minutes," Wallace said. "This team cannot play 25 or 30 minutes and win against anybody right now."

Notes: After a four-game winning streak, Hawaii has lost four in a row. ... Savovic scored a career-high 31 points in UH’s 79-71 loss against Texas-El Paso on Thursday. He has scored in double-figures in 13 of 14 games this season. ... Puida leads the team and is fourth in the WAC with 4.6 assists per game. ... Martin leads the WAC with a .653 field goal percentage; Tulsa’s Kevin Johnson is second at .623. ... Senior center Troy Ostler, who is averaging 15.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, remains questionable with a sprained left ankle. He has not played in the last two games. ... Junior guard Mike McIntyre re-aggravated a sprained right ankle against UTEP and is also questionable for tonight. ... Junior reserve point guard Ricky Terrell had a career-high six assists in 16 minutes against UTEP.

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