Lords of the rings
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is hoping to create its own version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy this season.
Gregory Yamamoto The Honolulu Advertiser
Juniors Carl English, left, and Phil Martin will spearhead UH's quest for a WAC three-peat this season.
Gregory Yamamoto The Honolulu Advertiser
Five players have two rings each as proof of the past two seasons of success. Six others return from last season's record-setting 27-6 team, creating a total of 11 ring bearers on this year's roster.
"It's an experienced group," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "But it's also a different group. You can't just assume everything will fall into place because we've had success before. This group will have to work hard to get to the standard set by the guys last year."
Three departed seniors from last season will not be a part of Part III: Predrag Savovic, Mindaugas Burneika and Mike McIntyre. They accounted for 39.3 points and 172 of the team-record 241 3-pointers.
Carl English will step into the lead role vacated by Savovic. Three others return in starring and starting spots: point guard Mark Campbell, power forward Phil Martin and center Haim Shimonovich.
Three newcomers Vaidotas Peciukas, Michael Kuebler and Jason Carter are expected to play vital contributing roles.
A sneak preview can be seen on Sunday, when the 'Bows begin their journey for three with an exhibition game against the EA Sports West All-Stars. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.
1, Mark Campbell 6-4 180 Sr.
2, Jason Carter 5-10 155 Jr.
3, Lance Takaki 5-4 150 Sr.
4, Ramsey Williams 5-11 155 Jr.
Campbell finished second in the conference with 4.6 assists per game, and ran the Hawai'i flex-motion offense to near-perfection. Still, Wallace expects him to play an even more significant role. Campbell averaged just 3.7 points last season, and Wallace said that will have to increase.
"He knows the psychological part of the game he knows how to make his teammates happy," Wallace said. "But he needs to score 10 to 12 points a game, which he's capable of doing."
Carter, a transfer from Barton County Community College (Kan.), is a bundle of energy wrapped in a slight frame. With a 40-inch vertical jump and a passion for the fancy pass, he will be the team's most exciting player.
"He's still learning, but he's learning from one of the best in the league in (Campbell)," Wallace said. "We recruited him for his speed and quickness and he uses that to his advantage."
Takaki, the crowd favorite in every arena, will once again guide the scout team. Williams, the Hawai'i high school Player of the Year at Moanalua in 1997, has been hampered by a knee injury.
1, Carl English 6-5 205 Jr.
2, Michael Kuebler 6-5 185 Jr.
3, Ryne Holliday 6-1 185 Sr.
4, Gabe Lombard 5-9 160 So.
English was probably the most versatile player in the WAC last season, when he averaged 15.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. This season, he is moving from small forward to shooting guard a more natural position for him which should increase his scoring opportunities.
He has already been selected as the WAC Preseason Player of the Year and is one of 50 players on the John Wooden Award watch list.
"I've been working on my shot every day," he said. "I think everybody knows my role will increase with Savo gone, but that's something I take as a challenge."
Kuebler was recruited out of Clackamas Community College (Ore.) for his long-range shooting skills, but has been more impressive in other aspects.
"He'll get after it defensively," Wallace said. "And he's a very smart player with good instincts. He fits in perfect with this offense."
Holliday and Takaki are considered the leaders of the scout team, but Wallace said he would not hesitate to use either fourth-year player in a game situation. Lombard is in his second season as a walk-on with the scout team.
1, Vaidotas Peciukas 6-6 200 So.
2, Ikaika Alama-Francis 6-7 210 Fr.
3, Dan Pickart 6-6 200 So.
The depth chart is somewhat deceiving since Peciukas has not yet solidified his starting role, and other veteran players would switch to the position ahead of Alama-Francis.
In any case, Peciukas has been a scoring machine during intrasquad scrimmages. The transfer from Weatherford College (Texas) averaged 23.7 points in three scrimmages.
But as Wallace put it: "He needs to play harder and pick it up a lot on the defensive end."
If Peciukas is not ready, English would move to small forward and Kuebler would start at shooting guard.
Alama-Francis is a walk-on from Kalaheo High who has an inside-out game and all-out hustle.
"He's not ready for major minutes yet," Wallace said. "But we'll test him in the right situations."
Pickart is in his second season as a walk-on with the scout team.
1, Phil Martin 6-8 235 Jr.
2, Nkeruwem Tony Akpan 6-8 235 So.
3, Paul Jesinskis 6-8 230 Sr.
Martin's mobility over the last month has been limited because of two sprained ankles, but he should be ready to start soon. He averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds last season, and is also regarded as one of the team's best one-on-one defenders.
"We know what he can do," Wallace said. "But just like with (Campbell), we need him to do more this year."
Akpan has displayed dramatic improvement since last season, and has been pushing Martin for the starting spot this week.
"He'll play a lot," Wallace said. "He gives us Superman strength inside, and he's the most aggressive guy we got."
Jesinskis could play a reserve role at all three frontcourt positions.
1, Haim Shimonovich 6-10 265 Jr.
2, Milos Zivanovic 6-11 235 Fr.
Because of Shimonovich's improvement in the low-post, Wallace does not expect this team to challenge last season's 3-point records.
"We're a different team because we'll go inside more for points," Wallace said. "Haim is one of the biggest, strongest centers in the league, and we have to use that."
Shimonovich started every game at center last season, and averaged 7.1 points and 6.6 rebounds.
"All during the preseason, I worked on my shooting," Shimonovich said. "Now, I feel comfortable almost to the 3-point line."
Zivanovic redshirted last season because of an injury to his spleen. He is fully recovered and will "definitely" be in the playing rotation, according to Wallace.
"There's still some blending to do with this team," Wallace said. "But all the parts are there."
|MENS BASKETBALL ROSTER|
|No.||Player||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Class||Home Town||Last School|
|2||Phil Martin||F||6-8||235||Jr.||Hamilton, Ontario, Canada||Cathedral HS|
|3||Ramsey Williams||G||5-11||155||Jr.||Honolulu, HI||College of the Desert|
|4||Gabe Lombard||G||5-9||160||So.||Pago Bay, Guam||St. John's School|
|10||Lance Takaki||G||5-4||150||Sr.||Honolulu, HI||Mid-Pacific Institute|
|11||Ikaika Alama-Francis||F||6-7||210||Fr.||Kaneohe, HI||Kalaheo HS|
|12||Milos Zivanovic||C||6-11||235||Fr.||Belgrade,Yugoslavia||XI Belgrade|
|13||Jason Carter||G||5-10||155||Jr.||Gary, IN||Barton County CC|
|14||Haim Shimonovich||F/C||6-10||265||Jr.||Rishon LeZion, Israel||Karari Gymnasium Realit|
|15||Mark Campbell||G||6-4||180||Sr.||Mt. Vernon, WA||Clackamas CC|
|22||Vaidotas Peciukas||G/F||6-6||200||So.||Joniskis, Lithuania||Weatherford College|
|23||Carl English||G/F||6-5||205||Jr.||Patrick's Cove, Newfoundland, Canada||Fatima Academy|
|24||Michael Kuebler||G/F||6-5||185||Jr.||Salem, OR||Clackamas CC|
|25||Ryne Holliday||G||6-1||185||Sr.||Belleville, IL||Belleville East HS|
|32||Dan Pickart||F||6-7||215||So.||Novato, CA||Novato HS|
|40||Paul Jesinskis||F||6-8||230||Sr.||Assagay, Natal, South Africa||Skyline College|
|54||Nkeruwem Akpan||F||6-8||235||So.||Akwa-Ibom, Nigeria||Central Park Christian HS|