Colina’s game has grown, thanks to his NBA buddies

In University of Hawaii basketball player Mate Colina’s pursuit of new heights, the writing was on the wall.

At his grandfather’s house in Melbourne, Australia, there were pencil marks charting Colina’s stages of growth. That stopped when he surpassed his 6-foot-7 father. What was a g’day for Mate, was not so much for the elder Colina.

“It took him a while to accept it,” Colina said. “After a while, it was pretty evident I was taller.”

With greater stature came greater expectations. Colina, who would eventually grow to his current 7 feet, was making a name for himself as a basketball center. (His name is pronounced Ma-tay Chaw-leen-uh.) That meant ending his participation in Australian rules football, where he played ruckman and could kick up to 55 meters (roughly 60 yards).

“When I had to choose between the sports, I found I loved basketball more,” Colina said.

Soon after his 16th birthday, Colina participated in a developmental camp at the Centre of Excellence Program in Canberra, about 290 miles from his home in Melbourne. Just before boarding a return flight, Colina received a phone call from his father. Colina was invited to live and train at CEP.

“It was a big decision, but I took it like bird in hand,” said Colina, who spent the next 30 months in Canberra. He was a member of two Australian national teams that completed in FIBA championship tournaments. He also received tutoring from Andrew Bogut, a 7-foot Australian center who was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks as the overall No. 1 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Bogut played 13 NBA seasons.

“He’s been a great mentor,” Colina said. “He showed me the pathway of what I should and shouldn’t do. I’m grateful he helped me.”

Colina committed to the Rainbow Warriors and, because Australia’s school year ends in December, he enrolled at UH in January. He redshirted last spring semester while training to be the ’Bows’ first featured back-to-the-basket center since Vander Joaquim in 2013.

“I like the physicality,” Colina said of playing in the paint, “and finding ways to get buckets.”

He said he has studied NBA brothers Pau and Marc Gasol, future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, and, of course, Bogut. Colina also has embraced basketball’s wider-spaced offenses. He has worked extensively on pick-and-rolls.

“You definitely have to have the mentality to sprint out there, find the guy, (screen) him, and roll out quickly,” said Colina, who also tries to set up in the low post to “suck in the defense to give the guys open shots.”

Colina said he has developed a 3-point shot, just in case. To help with footwork and endurance, he has resumed boxing training. “I keep looking for the 1 percenters (of improvement),” Colina said. “I keep trying to get better.”

BIGS

NO. PLAYER CL HT WT HOMETOWN

11 Mate Colina Fr. 7-0 240 Melbourne, Australia

The skinny: Traditional 5 who ran a mile in 5 minutes, 9 seconds

12 Jack Purchase Sr. 6-9 210 Melbourne, Australia

The skinny: 79.3% of his FG attempts launched behind 3-point arc

14 Zigmars Raimo Jr. 6-8 227 Madona, Latvia

The skinny: Faster after losing 15 pounds, reducing body fat to 7 percent

15 Owen Hulland Fr. 7-0 230 Adelaide, Australia

The skinny: Hybrid 5 with accurate outside shot

44 Dawson Carper Fr. 7-0 250 Colorado Springs, Colo.

The skinny: Most physical of the rim protectors

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