Feb. 10, 2000
There's a new kid on the block who's making UCSB's Thunderdome a tough
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
"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
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
"After that game," he said, "I thought we were going to do pretty well
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."