Monday, March 11, 2002

Hawaii has international lineup

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Xavier may view playing in Dallas as a long trip. Not so its first-round NCAA opponent, Hawaii. And not just because it's heading to the Big D from just a state away, since it spent the weekend in Tulsa.

        It's because the Rainbow Warriors (27-5) have already been away from campus for 14 days now. And because most of this Western Athletic Conference championship team isn't even from the U.S.

  • Record: 27-5 (15-3 Western Athletic Conference)
  • Bid: Automatic, won WAC Tournament
  • Coach: Riley Wallace (243-203, 15th season; 258-230, 17th overall)
  • Key players: Predrag Savovic, a 6-6 senior guard who averages 20 points per game; Carl English, a 6-5 sophomore guard who averages 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
  • Notable: Savovic's brother, Boban, won a conference championship of his own Sunday at Ohio State. . . . Hawaii went 3-0 this season against WAC rival Tulsa, which also earned an NCAA bid.
        “We recruit locally (in Hawaii) if they're there, and I've had some good players from Hawaii -- but not an abundance of them, and there's not a lot of height,” coach Riley Wallace said. “So we went to the junior colleges and got a couple of kids that are international.”

        As Wallace explains it, his school is an easier sell for international players than for ones from the U.S. mainland. American parents, he said, are so involved with their kids that they can't bear the thought of having them go to school where they can't see them play.

        Thus Hawaii starts two Canadians, a Yugoslav, an Israeli and a player from Washington state. On the bench, there are a Nigerian, a South African, another Yugoslav, and players from Guam and from Wake's Island (a Pacific island).

        “These kids get a good education and are very comfortable with Hawaii,” Wallace said. “They're a lot like kids were in the '50s and '60s, very respectful. Predrag (Savovic) is a third-team Academic All-American. Our team GPA is 3.0.”

        The 'Bows cheered when they saw XU as their opponent -- because it wasn't Syracuse. In their only two other NCAA appearances in Wallace's 15 seasons, including last season, they drew the Orangemen. Hawaii is 0-3 all-time in the NCAAs.

        UH finished No. 27 in the RPI. Wallace said he wasn't disappointed with a No. 10 seed because the team avoided the 8-9 game, which would mean potentially facing a top seed in the second round.

        Savovic, a senior guard, is UH's top scorer (20 ppg). The 'Bows are similar to XU in that they have great defensive numbers, allowing just 62.8 points per game and 40.8 percent shooting. But they have a minus-1.2 rebounding margin.

        XU and UH have one common opponent: Wisconsin. UH beat the Badgers 60-57 Nov. 25 in the UH-Hilo Big Island Tournament; XU beat them 57-48 Dec. 10 in Cintas Center. UH's other big victory was a 54-44 triumph over Georgia in the Big Island finals.

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