Saturday | July 30, 2016
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Vuls seek momentum

By MATT GERHART

Tribune-Herald sports writer

The losses for the University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s basketball team have piled up, but each one has taken on a unique form all of its own.

Some, such as a 34-point loss to Urbana, appeared effortless. Others, the Vulcans are coming off a two-point defeat to St. Edward’s 10 days ago, were more agonizing.

There’s a funny thing about momentum, though. The avalanche of bad vibes could turn just as quickly in favor of UHH (1-8), forward Mike Melonas said.

“We’re waiting for the click to happen,” he said. “When we’re all going to buy in and go team over everything.”

The holidays came at an opportune time, giving the Vuls a chance to catch their breath as they try to change their fortunes just before the new year. And a victory at 7:30 p.m. tonight at UHH Gym against Champion Baptist, a 1-9 NAIA school from Arkansas, would work wonders.

“I think this little break is really going to help us out,” the 6-foot-6, 257-pound Melonas said. “I just think we need to get that one win, so we can know what it feels like. We can sort of get a feel of how things are supposed to go when we’re winning.

“It’s going to start us on a snowball effect and we’re going to keep rolling.”

It hasn’t been the senior season Melonas envisioned so far, but he’s used to changing and adapting on the fly.

Basketball always has been his favorite sport, but he was better at football in high school, drawing all-state honors and the attention of college recruiters as an offensive lineman in Ventura High (Calif.).

“It was crazy. I have a shoebox full of recruiting letters back home,” Melonas recalls. “I’d get called out of class in high school to talk to (then-USC coach) Pete Carroll. I couldn’t believe all these schools wanted me.”

Melonas was headed to UCLA, or so he thought.

Rick Neuheisel, then the coach of the Bruins, asked him to attend junior college for a year to work on his grades. But when Melonas got to Ventura College, there was a big roadblock standing in his football future.

“They had this guy who was 6-8, 375, who started over