UH may start new lineup
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
True to his word, head coach Riley Wallace is experimenting with a new starting lineup this week for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.
For now, sophomore forward Tony Akpan and junior guard Michael Kuebler are working with the first team, along with returning starters Mark Campbell, Carl English and Haim Shimonovich.
"If we were to play a game today, that's what I'd go with," Wallace said. "But I still don't know for sure what's going to happen a week from now."
The Rainbow Warriors will play an exhibition game against the EA Sports West All-Stars on Sunday. The regular-season opener is scheduled for Nov. 22 against Arkansas-Little Rock.
After an intrasquad scrimmage last Saturday, Wallace declared that every starting position was "up in the air."
The fallout resulted in Kuebler moving to the shooting guard spot, and English moving from shooting guard to small forward in place of Vaidotas Peciukas. Also, Akpan replaced two-year starter Phil Martin at power forward.
Campbell is still the first point guard, and Shimonovich the top center.
"I know Coach Wallace likes to mess with our minds," said Akpan, who is 6 feet 8 and 235 pounds. "Practicing with the first team doesn't mean you're a starter. I'm not going to change my attitude because of this."
Kuebler, a 6-5 transfer from Clackamas Community College (Ore.), added: "It's not like I've proven anything. It just makes me want to work harder to keep the spot."
Wallace insists that the shakeup is not a motivational ploy for Martin or Peciukas.
Peciukas, a highly touted transfer from Weatherford College (Texas), has displayed defensive deficiencies during the scrimmages. Martin is still recovering from a sprained ankle that has neutralized his quickness the key to his success the past two seasons.
What's more, Wallace said that the new starting lineup "looked pretty good" the past two days.
In any case, Akpan and Kuebler were promoted based on their significant progress over the past three weeks.
Akpan sat out the first 15 games of his freshman season as an NCAA suspension, and then played a limited role in UH's run to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship. This season, he has emerged as the team's most aggressive defender and rebounder.
This week, he was even ordered by Wallace to practice with elbow pads out of fear that he might injure a teammate.
"I'm going to bring the same intensity whether I start or come off the bench," said Akpan, who is from Nigeria. "It's everybody's dream to be in the starting lineup, but I'll be ready either way."
Kuebler struggled with his shooting in the opening weeks of practice, but has flourished when paired in the same backcourt with Campbell. They were the starting guards at Clackamas during the 2000-01 season.
"I think we read each other really well," Kuebler said. "We had that connection at Clackamas, too."
Still, he was not taking his new starting role for granted.
"It happened just like that," he said of his promotion. "And I know I could go back down just as fast. It keeps everybody working hard."