Larry Little, head basketball coach of the Hawaii Rainbows, apparently doesn't recruit much in Southern California. But maybe he should.
Littel, a 1962 graduate of Illinois State at Normal, had remarkable success at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., the first time he was a head coach in a four-year college basketball program. With center Robert Parish (now with the Boston Celtics) playing for Little and Centenary, the Gents finished with a 21-4 record in 1974 and were 25-4 in 1975 and 22-5 in 1976. Little's five-year record was a sparkling 100-33.
Little took over Hawaii's program in the 1976-77 season, and success in the islands was not as easy as at Centenary; his eight-year record with the Rainbows through the 1983-84 season is a drab 93-125. and his job is apparently on the line if Hawaii has another losing season.
On the morning before Hawaii opened this season at home with a 79-78 win over Pepperdine, Honolulu Advertiser staffwriter Andy Yamaguchi wrote, "Little has been told that this season will be his last unless he can resuscitate success on the court and at the box office."
Little's roots are in the Midwest and the South, and that's where he seems to get most of his players. Not one this year is from Southern California.
Chaminade Coach Merv Lopes, Hawaii Pacific Coach Paul Smith and Brigham Young Hawaii Coach Ted Chidester get a lot of their players from Southern California, and the imported athletes do those schools a lot of good on the court.
Lopes' teams in recent year have included 6-6 forward Will Pounds, now a part-time Chaminade assistant coach, and 6-5 forward Earnest Pettway, both from Pasadena, and a trio of players from Hamilton High School: 6-4 forward Michael (Tex) Parker, who played in 1981 and 1982; 6-2 point guard Mark Wells ('81-'83) and 5-11 guard Walter Carpenter, a freshman who made this year's team as a walk-on.
Mike Vasconcellos, Chaminade athletic director, said that Wells, who played a large role in Chaminade's big year of 1982 (when the Silverswords upset Virginia), was recruited by Lopes while Wells was a student at Santa Monica College.
Vasconcellos said, "Wells was shooting hoops in a park, Merv asked him if he wanted to come to Paradise, and he accepted."
He said that when Lopes first took over Hawaii's basketball program in the 1977-78 season "there was basketball on the islands, but none of the local athletes could be recruited because they had no kind of talent to play" in a college program that aspired to greatness.
That situation has changed, he said, and Chaminade gets top local players, but few of them are the tall timber required to go against the 6-9 forwards and 7-foot centers of mainland teams. Now, he said, Chaminade has locals but supplements them with the big guys from the mainland.
The beauty of Hawaii--and Hawaii's beauties--usually overcome any reluctance a recruit may have about going to school so far from home. "In order for us to win, we have to take advantage of what we've got," said Vasconcellos.
Then he jokes, but it is kidding partly on the square: "We take them out for canoeing and surfing and a lot of wild women. We utilize our resources."
So do the other colleges.
The Hawaii basketball guide this year uses the same technique to sell its program as Detroit employs to sell cars: girls. The guide shows four uniformed players posing on top of the cabin of a luxury yacht, and they are surrounded by smiling, bikini-clad co-eds.
Hawaii Pacific Coach Smith, in his second year in that basketball program but before that a successful coach for 18 years at Servite, Los Angeles Baptist, Ramona and Oxnard high schools, also gets his big guys from Southern California. He says the beauty and good weather are easy to sell to prospects and the hard part is the remoteness of the islands.
"In some ways, it is the magic of Hawaii," said Smith, whose record of 19-16 last year was the best in the short basketball history of Hawaii Pacific, which fielded its first team in 1979-80.
"The weather in Southern California is nearly as good--but not year-round. Honolulu is a pretty decent city to live in. It's beautiful here, we have shorts and T-shirt weather year-round, and there is a little bit of action going on in the Waikiki area."
Smith, 45, has been selling Hawaii to major-college basketball teams who are starting to visit the islands in large numbers to play local schools. Since the schedule has become tougher, he said, "There is no question that you have to recruit mainland athletes to be competitive.
"There are very few big kids in high school programs heres, and the great athletes are basically football players who are maybe 5-10 or 6-1. If you play a major college schedule, you gotta have some big folks."
Lured 7-Foot Center
Some of his big folks this year are 7-0 1/2 junior center Jim Renner from Ridgefield, Wash., who played two years at the University of Wyoming as a reserve; 7-foot forward Jim Galla from Santa Ana, who played for Saddleback and Santa Ana junior colleges, and 6-5 junior guard Reno Cook from Stockton, who played last year for state community college champion San Joaquin Delta and was the Most Valuable Player for the state tournament.
Nine Californias are on Smith's 15-man roster. Besides Galla and Cook, there are 25-year-old junior guard Carl Fields, who payed at Los Angeles City College and Hancock College and was out of school for four years after that; senior forward Eric Gable from Lemoore High and West Hills College in Coalinga; junior guards Omar Gonzalez and Darryl Houston, both Oxnard High graduates and transfers from Oxnard College; junior forward Carlos Monroes form Crenshaw High and Los Angeles Trade Tech, junior guard Raul Montolfo from Mission Viejo High and Moorpark College and junior forward James Rhodes from San Francisco's Balboa High and Skyline College in San Bruno.
Chidester, 48, a former high school coach in Utah, served as a graduate assistant in 1976 and 1977 to Indiana University Coach Bobby Knight, the coach of the 1984 champion U.S. Olympic team. He was head coach at Northern Montana College for two years and has been BYU Hawaii's basketball coach since the program was started in 1979-80 to 23-12 last season, and his career record with the Seasiders through 1983-84 was 75-67.
BYU Hawaii has seven mainlanders, including three Californians, on this year's squad of 13, and Chidester says he has to recruit in the other 49 states, though he is confined mostly to Western states because of a limited budget.
Scouting the West
"We have five NAIA schools and one NCAS Division I team (Hawaii)," he said. "There is no way that Hawaii can produce top teams if we go strictly with in-state players, and we recruit heavily in the Western states. Utah, California, Nevada--we look at all the Western states."
BYU in Provo, Utah, has three blacks on it basketball team this year but before this year had a total of only three black cagers on all the teams the school has fielded since 1917. Chidester said he has had at least three black players on each of his BYU Hawaii teams, and this year they include 6-4 sophomore guard-forward Wilbert (Wil) Bello, a graduate of Verbum Dei High in Compton, and 6-5 senior guard Sam Johnson from Oakland.
(Chidester's other California is 6-4 sophomore guard-forward Rick Barker, who was the top scorer for two years at La Palma's Kennedy High.)
Basketball began at BYU Hawaii in 1979, the year after President Spencer Kimball of the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declared that the black man was a spiritual equal of white Mormons, whose religion held until then the blacks were cursed.
Chidester has blessed that declaration ever since. "In my opinion, there are good athletes everywhere, whether they're black, white or of whatever nationality. I'm sure that a lot of teams compete without black athletes, but they add a new dimension to the game."
Coach's Sales Pitch
Black, white or whatever, Chidester tries to attract mainland players, partly by emphasizing the beauty of the campus, between towering green cliffs and a serene blue ocean in the small town of Laie near the northern tip of Oahu. Partly by telling them they can play in BYU's Cannon Activities Center, a sparkling clean, 5,600-sear field house that was dedicated in 1981 and is probably the best such facility in the islands--even if it is 40 miles from Honolulu.
He also sells Hawaii. "I feel the California kid is going to identify with our climate and beaches," he said, adding that Bello and Barker fell so much in love with Hawaii as freshmen that they missed it when they were at home in California last summer and returned to school early for the start of last fall's term.
It's not always an easy sell, however. "Our toughest job is that a lot of people did not know we existed," Chidester said. He said that his team takes at least one playing trip to the mainland and that those trips have helped recruiting. "Our ability to win and our exposure on the mainland have helped a lot--and our new facility (Cannon Center).
"I think we're the best-kept secret in the islands," but he added that Chaminade's wins over Virginia and Louisville put small-college basketball, in Hawaii and elsewhere, "on the map. There is no doubt about it."
Lumpkin's Sales Tool
When he comes to the Los Angeles area on a recruiting trip, George Lumpkin, the University of Hawaii assistant football coach who grew up in Los Angeles and played here and for the Rainbows, brings a crackerjack sales tool with him--sort of a miniature map of Hawaii's scenic splendors.
Lumpkin's name and title on his business card is printed over a spectacular color view of a Hawaiian sun setting in the sea amid a stand of towering palm trees while what looks to be a young man and woman are strolling along a beach beneath the trees.
Unlike his basketball colleagues in Hawaii, Lumpkin is not necessarily looking for tall players but big and beefy ones who will supplement the native Hawaiians and others on this year's 97-man roster.
Lumpkin, a black, is also looking for wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks--many of them black athletes from such high schools as Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Carson and Palisades.
He recruited defensive back Dana McLemore, now with the San Francisco 49ers, and has had especially good luck with black quarterbacks. The last three Rainbow quarterbacks have been Michael Stennis, who starred at Palisades; Bernard Quarles of Jefferson High, who once competed for the starting job at UCLA with Tom Ramsay and Jay Schroeder, and Raphel Cherry, this past year's Hawaii quarterback.
Cherry was also a top pitcher-outfielder at Washington High school during the years that Darryl Strawberry, star outfielder with the New York Mets, was playing for Crenshaw High, and Cherry planned to play baseball at Hawaii. But a broken finger in his freshman year stopped him from becoming a star on the diamond. Lumpkin, 34, says he is essentially selling prospects "a good program and the unique experience of learning about other people from many ethnic groups, an experience that will help them grow more as a person." From his experience, he added that he thinks blacks "probably experience less prejudice" in Hawaii "than anywhere else."
And black high school quarterbacks can play that position for Hawaii, instead of hearing, as they often do from recruiters from other colleges, that they could better use their talents at wide receiver or defensive back.
Lumpkin said that former Palisades star Stennis, Hawaii's top quarterback in 1979 and 1980, had hoped to play at UCLA, "but they turned him down, and USC wanted him as a defensive back." He said of Cherry that "most other schools wanted him as an athlete," not as a quarterback. He said that Qauries, who played for the Rainbows in 1981 and 1982, was the only one of the three who was initially recruited as a quarterback.
Wants Big Samoans
If it is relatively easy for him to find black quarterback candidates, he said, "it is hard to get big guys." Lumpkin looks for big Samoans who usually play for Banning and Carson high schools, and other Hawaii recruiters range through the Pacific looking for giant linemen. Three big members of this season's team were rugby players before coming to Hawaii: 6-7, 375-pound freshman Mark Nua and 6-4, 255-pound junior Craig Ormsby, both from Auckland, New Zealand, and 6-6, 255-pound Colin Scotts from Sydney, Australia.
If it is hard for Lumpkin to find big guys, it seems to be relatively easy for Hawaii recruiters to find big girls on the mainland for volleyball, which strongly rivals basketball in popularity on the islands.
Coach Dave Shoji's Hawaii Rainbow Wahines won back-to-back NCAA championships in 1982 and 1983 and have been a strong force in women's volleyball since Shoji's first season of 1975.
Shoji, 37, was born in Upland, Calif., spent much of his youth in Honolulu but was a star in football, basketball and baseball at Upland High and was twice an All-American volleyball player at UC Santa Barbara. So he has contacts in both the islands and California and recruits tall California women to play middle blocker and power hitter.
Six Californians were on the past season's Hawaii team, and much of the team's recruiting in California has been done the past two seasons by assistant coach Dean Nowack,, who has stronger ties with the Golden State than Shoji.
Nowack, 32, also played volleyball at UC Santa Barbara and later served as an assistant coach and an executive in professional volleyball. He is credited with signing two newcomers to Rainbow Wahine volleyball: Debbi Black, a 5-10 sophomore outside hitter on the 1982 state championship team from Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, and 5-8 Pam Lawrence, another sophomore outside hitter who starred at Corona del Mar High.
Other Californians on Shoji's 1984 squad were 6-3 freshman middle blocker Suzanne Eagye of San Diego, 6-0 senior middle blocker Lisa Straand of Santa Barbara, 5-9 senior setter Kelly Knowles of Rialto and sophomore Naomi Higa, a 5-2 back-row specialist from Sunnyvale.
The women's volleyball programs at the NAIA schools may be at a lower level of competition, but they are just as ambitious and have as great a power as the Rainbows in Hawaii Hilo, which won five national championships from 1979 through 1983.
Chaminade fielded its first women's volleyball squad in 1984, and all the players were from Hawaii. But several Californians are on the women's volleyball team at BYU Hawaii, which has gradually become an NAIA power since it began its program in 1979, and at Hawaii Pacific, which was founded in 1965, had its first basketball team in 1978 and added five other sports later.