AS WAS EVIDENCED BY THE standing-room-only crowds for their games again this weekend, the Utah Valley Community College Wolverines are still having a hard time losing - either games or fans. Here it is going into the latter part of February and how many games has UVCC lost? Four?
In the meantime, the Wolverines have won 27.By now it's safe to say this is a team on a roll. Even Duke Reid, who is the head coach and, by definition, a hard man to please, has to admit it. "Most fun I've ever had with a team," he says. "The amazing thing about these guys is that when they win, they don't get too high. They take it in stride."
Another amazing thing about these guys is how they all came together at a 2-year junior college in Orem. What we have at UVCC is a collection of the usual Utah born-and-bred basketball players, whose parents' tax dollars make the institution possible. But along with that are two guys who definitely did not grow up knowing anything about I-15 and the Provo Diagonal.
Peter Martin, UVCC's 7-foot center, and Stanley Rose, UVCC's 6-foot-8 forward, are from New Zealand and Alabama, respectively.
Now, Utah Valley's recruiting budget isn't international in scope, or even national in scope. Usually it consists of gas money for Reid to get to Timpview High. But when the coach took a longshot and called Rose last year in his hometown of Leeds, Ala., and when Rose said he'd like to come to Orem because he'd never seen the West before, well, UVCC came up with the money to get him out here.
Rose's high school grades weren't high enough to get him into an NCAA Div. I school. A Prop. 48 casualty, as they say. Hence, virtually every J.C. coach in the country was interested in him. Rose grew up a block away from where Charles Barkley grew up, and at Leeds High School he broke most of Charles Barkley's records.
Reid also requisitioned enough dollars to fly to Leeds, there to have Rose give him a guided tour of the town, which consisted mainly of showing him: 1. The house where Barkley was raised; and 2. The luxurious new house Barkley's mother now lives in.
Reid gained the confidence of Rose and, just as important, of Rose's mother, and the rest is UVCC history. The other juco teams in Region 18 have been mad at him ever since.
(BYU, on the other hand, has been quite pleased with his efforts. The big school up the road, where Duke's brother Roger is the assistant head coach, has been openly coveting Rose all season long).
So that's the Stanley Rose story. The Peter Martin story is not so exotic. Which is to say the coach didn't get to go to New Zealand.
Martin started his college career at the University of Hawaii, which made sense because he reasoned that Honolulu was halfway between New Zealand and mainland America, and it would be easier for his parents to see him play.
But he became disenchanted with Rainbow basketball after his freshman year and was steered to Utah Valley because Martin's high school coach had been a counselor at a BYU basketball camp.
A sophomore this year, Martin has developed into a bona fide major college-calibre center. But he will not be going to BYU. Because he started out at a WAC school, he must give away one year of eligibility if he transfers to another WAC school. And he only has two years remaining.
Not to worry. At a game last week against Dixie in St. George, recruiters from Kansas, Houston, Pittsburgh, UCLA and Washington State were in the stands.
But that will be then and this is now, and as the Wolverines roll on, surrounding Martin and Rose with a mature bunch of players that includes no less than seven returned Mormon missionaries - including the team's other starters, point guard Todd Reid from Brighton High (the coaches' son), shooting guard Scott Moon from Davis High and small forward Cam Jarman from Provo High - the natural thought is to wonder how far this team can go?
Even to get to the junior college national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., the Wolverines have to qualify at the Region 18 round-robin tournament March 2-4 in Twin Falls, on the home court of nationally ranked (No. 3) College of Southern Idaho. CSI hasn't lost in Twin Falls in 74 games.
"But in our last two games there, we've lost on a last-second shot, and by four points," says Reid.
In other words, Twin Falls doesn't scare these guys. They've been around a little themselves. And by now they're getting used to playing to crowds.