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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Academics sideline UH middle blocker

• UH's Theocharidis earns national honor

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Delano Thomas, left, will miss another series because of academics. Meanwhile, Costas Theocharidis was named AVCA Player of the Week.

Advertiser library photo • Jan. 8, 2002

The University of Hawai'i men's volleyball team will be without one of its top players for two important matches at Pepperdine this weekend.

UH coach Mike Wilton said freshman Delano Thomas, a 6-foot-7 middle blocker, has not made sufficient progress in certain academic areas. Thomas also missed last week's road trip to focus on academics.

"He's a good kid, and he's not doing any improper behavior, but it's a team policy," Wilton said. "If I let him play, what am I teaching him? Am I going to play someone at all costs?"

Wilton said several players, including middle blockers Dejan Miladinovic and Brian Nordberg, lobbied to have Thomas play against Pepperdine.

"I totally understand where they're coming from," Wilton said. "But we have three parts to our program, and he's not doing the right job with the school part."

Thomas, who leads the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in hitting percentage, made the tearful announcement to his teammates before yesterday's 90-minute practice in the Stan Sheriff Center.

"He had a deal with the academic advisers, and he apparently didn't honor the deal," Miladinovic said. "That's it, the short version. We'll have a tough match without Delano. He can help us, and we'll miss him. I guess we'll have to suck it up and play."

Said Thomas: "I'll be OK."

Thomas' problems are puzzling. As an honor student at Kennedy High in Sacramento, Calif., he scored nearly 1,200 on the SAT.

Wilton said Geronimo "Jo Jo" Chala will serve as the top backup at middle blocker.

Wilton had wanted to add middle blocker Rob Drew to the 12-player travel roster, but Drew has yet to receive clearance from the NCAA. Drew missed the past two seasons while recovering from colitis. Last year, doctors removed Drew's large intestine. Drew, who is listed as a senior, has petitioned the NCAA for a medical hardship that will allow him to play next season.

"That would be sweet," Drew said. "As far as this year, maybe I can be a serving specialist. I don't want to rush back and hurt myself."

Pepperdine (13-2 in the MPSF) has won six in a row to surge past Hawai'i (12-2) into second place. UCLA (14-2) leads the MPSF.

"Pepperdine is probably playing the best volleyball in the country, and the matches will be at Pepperdine," Miladinovic said. "It's going to be very tough."