Post Mark: Hull Makes Successful Position Move For UCSB Men's Basketball

Feb. 10, 2000

There's a new kid on the block who's making UCSB's Thunderdome a tough neighborhood again.

The Gauchos began to make their move on the basketball court this season when it moved Mark Hull to the post.

Hull, a 6-foot-6 and 195-pound freshman, is averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game entering tonight's 7 o'clock home game against Cal State Fullerton. But an even more important statistic is UCSB's record since he was switched from wing forward to power forward in the starting lineup: 4-1.

"We were successful when we went to the smaller, quicker lineup last year," noted Coach Bob Williams, whose Gauchos won 15 of their last 20 games last season when it switched to a three-guard alignment. "I made the decision based on the fact that I wanted us to compete harder, and Larry (Bell, the new starter at the 3-spot) adds to that a great deal.

"We also wanted to be quicker, because we weren't being successful while trying to be bigger. I'm a huge fan of quickness, and Mark has got to be as quick as any 4-man in the league."

The move has come with a price, as one look at Hull's black-and-blue body will attest.

"I've come away with a lot of bumps and bruises the last few games," he conceded with a laugh. "I've had to see Leroy (Heu, UCSB's trainer) an awful lot lately."

But Hull has also gotten in his shots -- the kind that add up to points. He's averaged 14.4 points since making the move, and has had particular success of late in getting open at the 3-point line. He's shooting 47.8 percent (11-of-23) from the arc in UCSB's eight Big West games, ranking fourth in the league.

"When we made the change, we were concerned about whether or not post play would be too physical for him," Williams said. "And at first, he tried to be a pure post guy, trying to post up down low, which is not exactly what we wanted him to do.

"We wanted him to play the post in some of the same ways he played the 3-spot, using his quickness and getting open for the perimeter shot."

Hull admitted that it took a couple of games to get comfortable with the change.

"I think I'm reading defenses better, picking my spots where I can score against the bigger guy who's guarding me," he said. "I've gotten some outside shots when other teams have gone zone against us. And when the big guy steps out on me, I can usually drive around him."

But more amazing to Williams is the quickness in which Hull picked up the nuances of the new position.

"The 3-spot and 4-spot are two completely different positions -- it's not like moving from a similar spot like the 2 to the 3," he said. "But he's a bright guy with a great basketball intellect. He sees the game and understands the game. He likes to 'think' the game a lot."

Hull, a Law and Society major at UCSB, did come to the university with some academic credentials. He was named as the Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year at Glendale's Hoover High in 1998 and was twice a candidate for the CIF Scholar Athlete of the Year award.

He was the first Gaucho signed by Williams when he took over UCSB's program in the spring of 1998. Shortly after arriving at the school, the new coach pulled out videos of the players that the Gauchos had been recruiting -- and became immediately sold on this lanky wing forward from Glendale's Hoover High.

"We saw how well Mark could shoot and pass the ball, and we liked how unselfish he was -- even while averaging 27 points," Williams recalled. "We saw him make this one particular move along the baseline where he went up with his left hand and dunked on a guy. We could see that he was plenty athletic to play at this level."

Hull's 27.9-point average during the 1997-98 season was second-best in the CIF Southern Section that year. He also averaged a school-record 13 rebounds and handed out 2.7 assists. He was voted MVP of the Pacific League after leading the Tornadoes to their first championship in 15 years.

Although he was also being recruited by such schools as Pepperdine and Big West rival UC Irvine, Hull worried about UCSB's interest afterJerry Pimm stepped down as head coach at the end of the 1998 season.

"My dad and I had been talking to Coach (Jon) Wheeler for a long time," he said, referring to the assistant who had been recruiting him, "and one of the first things we asked Coach Williams was what he was going to do about his staff. He made it quite clear that Coach Wheeler was staying."

The next big decision for Hull was to redshirt last season. He used the extra year to add 15 pounds of muscle to his frame, enabling him to play both inside and out this season.

"I was lucky, because there were four guys redshirting and I didn't have to do it alone," he said. "There were times when it wasn't fun. I remember a couple of times we'd be in the weight room, lifting while listening to the radio of the guys playing a road game. It was hard sometimes, but overall it was the best thing for me."

Hull has started all 19 of UCSB's games this season, and it didn't take him long to feel like he belonged.

"I'm always going to remember that first game against Stanford," he said. "Afterward, it hit me that we had just played Stanford, and I was in there playing with them. It made me realize that I could play at this level."

Hull, in fact, gave the underdog Gauchos a chance to upset the now second-ranked Cardinal when he sank back-to-back shots, including a 3-pointer, to draw them to within five points, 48-43, with eight minutes to go. Stanford finally pulled out a 62-49 win, although Hull ended up with 13 points and seven rebounds in his collegiate debut. He also helped hold another freshman sensation, the Cardinal's Corey Jacobsen, to 0-for-7 shooting.

"After that game," he said, "I thought we were going to do pretty well this season."

But it has taken some time. UCSB was 4-10 overall and 0-3 in the Big West Conference before finally making its move. But Hull has been steady all year.

"Mark's the type of player I love to have," said Williams. "He's very consistent with his effort, whether it's a practice or game. And he plays the whole game. He defends, he rebounds it, he passes it, he puts it on the floor to get to the rim. He does everything there is on the floor, and he's extremely versatile at 6-6.

"Those type of guys allow you to win at any level."