Rokas Paulauskas lifts Hawks to wins

Rokas Paulauskas lifts Hawks to wins

February 13th, 2012 by Gene Henley in Sports - Preps

With things as complicated as infusing four different sets of nationalities into one basketball team, Hamilton Heights coach Bill Eller has implied a simpler way of trying to coach.

The KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And as that goes, the Hawks' simplest way of being successful recently has been using the talents and skills of 6-foot-7 junior post Rokas Paulauskas.

Paulauskas started last week off with a 22-point, 11-rebound performance in a win over Cleveland last Tuesday. He followed that up with an even more impressive 27 points and 20 rebounds in a victory over Soddy-Daisy. The two game, 24.5-point, 15.5-rebound average was enough to earn him Times Free Press Player of the Week honors.

The Hawks are 19-8 on the season, with three regular-season games left before the team heads to the National Association of Christian Athletes national tournament, which starts next Tuesday in Fort Bluff.

Head coach Bill Eller said that there was an adjustment time for Paulauskas, who is playing his first season at Hamilton Heights.

"He was a center when he played internationally, so he's used to a physical style of play, but not as fast," Eller said. "We've had to adjust our style a little bit; early in the season, we were so guard-oriented and that hurt us in a game against Sequatchie County over Christmas.

"We moved our center to the high post, and we're now able to move Rokas around to where he can hit the 12-15 foot jump shot, which is good for a kid who's 6-foot-7 in high school. He's learned to read screens and move around, as opposed to settling down in the paint and not moving much."

With Paulauskas's increased confidence in addition to the efforts of some of his teammates, Eller feels good about where the team is heading into the national tournament.

"Rokas is really applying himself being the inside presence we need. Early in the year, he was missing shots we felt he needed to be making, but he's worked hard in practice in shooting drills, then making shots and getting to the line," Eller said. "I don't know what he's shooting at the line, but it's good for a big man.

"We needed him to step up, and he has. His confidence is at an all-time high."