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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 14, 2001

Savovic has new attitude in his return

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Predrag Savovic has just one goal tonight.

Guard Predrag Savovic returns to the Rainbow Warriors' starting lineup tonight.

Advertiser library photo


After sitting out a seven-game NCAA penalty, Savovic will make a much-anticipated season debut for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team tonight. The Rainbow Warriors are scheduled to play former Western Athletic Conference rival San Diego State at the Stan Sheriff Center at 7 p.m.

"The most important thing is for us to keep winning," said Savovic, a 6-foot-6 senior guard. "I know it sounds like a cliche, but that's how it really is."

Savovic led the 'Bows with 17.6 points per game last season and was a first-team All-WAC selection. He admits having had personal goals like 25 points per game in the past, but that changed last season when he became an integral part of UH's "flex" passing offense.

"I used to think about getting my shots and my points, but not any more," he said. "It never took me anywhere and it never took the team anywhere."

UH head coach Riley Wallace confirmed Savovic's new approach after an enlightening meeting between the two yesterday.

"He was actually concerned that he might break the chemistry," Wallace said. "He was asking if he could still do this or do that. I told him as long as he plays within the offense, he can be the same player he was last year, if not better.

"He's not going to break the chemistry. If anything, he'll make it better."

The 'Bows have started 6-1 with Savovic on the bench. He was suspended for past participation in professional games in Yugoslavia.

Prior to his suspension, Savovic had started all 60 games in his two previous seasons at UH. He was allowed to practice during the suspension, although he did most of his work with the scout team during that time.

"Of course, it's going to take some time to adjust," Savovic said. "Hopefully it's going to be a smooth transition because the guys have been playing great. I just want to blend in."

Sophomore Carl English has averaged a team-high 17.7 points per game while starting in Savovic's shooting guard position. Tonight, English will shift to small forward to make room for Savovic in the starting lineup.

"It makes my job that much easier," point guard Mark Campbell said. "We'll basically have two guys on the wings who can score. It's going to be hard for teams to defend that."

However, Hawai'i will face the same problem defensively against San Diego State's offense.

The Aztecs' starting backcourt of Al Faux (20.2) and Tony Bland (20.1) are the two leading scorers in the Mountain West Conference. Faux, a 6-2 senior, has scored 25 points in each of the last two games. Bland, a 6-5 junior, is also averaging 5.0 assists per game.

"Transition defense is going to be the key for us," Wallace said. "(SDSU) likes to run and they obviously can shoot it with those two guards."

What's more, 6-9 forward Randy Holcomb is contributing 16.0 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

"If we don't come ready to play, we'll get beat bad," Wallace admitted.

Savovic's return also creates needed depth in the UH rotation. In particular, senior forward Mindaugas Burneika and senior guard Mike McIntyre — both former starters — will play key roles off the bench.

"For the first time, we'll have the rotation (of players) that we wanted all along," Wallace said.

Most of all, the 'Bows will have the player they wanted all along.

"I've been here long enough to know Savo is the man," said Campbell, who is in his first season at UH. "We have a lot of different threats, inside and outside, for different situations. But when it comes down to it, Savo is our go-to guy."

Probable Starters

Hawai'i (6-1)

Pos.—Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pts. Reb.

G—Mark Campbell 6-4 180 Jr. 3.6 3.1
G—Predrag Savovic 6-6 225 Sr. 17.6* 4.7*
F—Carl English 6-5 205 So. 17.7 5.4
F—Phil Martin 6-8 230 So. 10.6 3.7
C—Haim Shimonovich 6-10 245 So. 10.4 7.7

*2000-01 statistics

Notes: The Rainbow Warriors have won 11 consecutive games at the Stan Sheriff Center, their longest home winning streak since 1972. ... Hawai'i's 6-1 start is its best since 1997, when it started 11-1. ... Campbell leads all Western Athletic Conference players with 6.1 assists per game. ... English has led the team in scoring in six of seven games, including the last four. ... Among the reserves, three 'Bows are averaging double-figure points — senior guard Mike McIntyre (11.5), senior forward Mindaugas Burneika (10.7), and junior forward Luc-Arthur Vebobe (10.0). ... UH did not make a 3-point field goal in its last game, ending a streak of 31 consecutive games with at least one 3. ... Reserve forward Milos Zivanovic will be out at least one month with an enlarged spleen.

San Diego State (5-3)

Pos.—Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pts. Reb.

G—Tony Bland 6-5 192 Jr. 20.1 2.8
G—Al Faux 6-2 178 Sr. 20.2 4.8
F—Brandon Smith 6-7 215 Sr. 4.7 1.3
F—Randy Holcomb 6-9 222 Sr. 16.0 8.9
C—Mike Mackell 6-9 241 Jr. 10.6 5.0

Notes: The Aztecs, who compete in the Mountain West Conference, defeated Fresno State, 93-78, last Saturday. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 21 at the time. ... Faux made his first start of the season against Fresno State and led SDSU with 25 points. He was suspended for the first four games of this season for violating team rules. ... Faux was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week on Monday; Bland won the award last week. ... Reserve forward Chris Walton is the son of basketball great Bill Walton. ... Head coach Steve Fisher, who is in his third season at SDSU, led Michigan to a national championship in 1989. He was also the head coach of Michigan's famous "Fab Five" teams led by Chris Webber.