Danilewicz: Distance is relative when UH recruits

Jack Danilewicz probes the mind of UH assistant coach Scott Rigot, Hawaii's international point man.

Rigot finds a way to flex

UH's recruiting muscle


By Jack Danilewicz

RSN Writer

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2002

The next Hawaii recruit is only a long-distance phone call away. Any blue-chipper will do. Just don't talk to Rainbow Warriors assistant coach Scott Rigot about all of that ocean between Hawaii and the nearest stretch of land.

He's heard it all before.

"When I got the job here, I called a lot of high school kids," Rigot says. "They all gave me the same answer – 'it's too far.' "So then I called Carl English," he continues. "By now, I had gone through about 30 kids who had told me that Hawaii was far, and I'd had enough. Finally, I get on the phone with English and I'm looking at a map, and he's a kid from Newfoundland, and he gets on the phone and he says, 'coach, Hawaii's far.' And I scream into the phone, 'No, I don't want to hear that.' I said, 'you're four hours by plane from Iceland. Everything is far from Newfoundland!'

"I'll listen to that from a kid in Illinois, but not from Newfoundland," he laughed. "Distance for these (international) kids isn't a problem because if you're from Nigeria, if you're from Yugoslavia, or if you're from Israel or Canada, you have to go away somewhere else anyway."

And what better place to play than Hawaii? Certainly, there can be no disputing Hawaii's success in the recruiting wars as of late. The Rainbow Warriors have hit the International gold mine, landing a steady stream of good basketball players, who are also good students and good people.

With that in mind, Rigot has served largely as the front man in Hawaii's recruiting efforts as of late, having brought to the Manoa campus Predrag Savovic, Carl English, Haim Shimonovich, Phil Martin, Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan and Milos Zivanovic, among others.

He can't comment on the status of his current recruiting efforts it's hardly a secret around the program that he recently returned from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, so the Rainbow Warriors' focus remains very much on international prospects.

"International kids don't work for everybody, but they work for us," he says.

An added asset to Rigot's recruiting has been the luxury of recruiting kids to function in the very offense – "the flex" – that he helped install at Hawaii.

Much of Hawaii's on-court success has come from its ability to run its variation of "the flex," which combines lots of motion with back-door cuts and screens that wear on the opposition. Rigot learned it from former Oregon State and East Carolina coach Eddie Payne (currently at Greensboro College) while both were assistants at South Carolina, and the Rainbow Warriors have flourished ever since.

"It fits our personnel well, and the kids believe in it; that's the most important thing," says Rigot. "When they believe in it, it gives you an opportunity to teach it. I had known it, but I learned it a different way from him. I ran it when I was a head junior college coach, and we had success with it. But it's different from the way we run it now. And, yet, there are a lot of similarities.

"The way we run it and the twists we put on, it's not a traditional flex," he continues. "It has a lot of principles and a lot of reads to it, and it fits these kids. They run it to where other teams really can't guard you in it. They have a lot of confidence when they run it. When you play us, you have to pick your poison. If you want to zone us,
you're at the mercy of our shooters. If you try to guard us, we're going to carve you up in a lot of different ways. I think that's one of the big reasons we're where we are."

Hawaii's next big sell may be to convince Rigot to stay. With Hawaii sitting on what amounts to a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, more attention figures to be focused on the Rainbow Warriors' program.

And the conventional approach to finding a head coach is – and has always been – to hire away an assistant from an established program. Ambitious, young, and yet established, Rigot would be as big a find for a program as Carl English was for Hawaii.

"It's a nice fit for me, my family loves it, and the people are great," he says of Hawaii. "But my goal was to be a head coach, not an assistant. I'll always look at that. Hopefully, if you do a good job (as an assistant), recruit a lot of players and win, you get that chance (to be a head coach). I'm looking forward to that opportunity."

For now, helping to make Hawaii a winner will have to suffice.

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