Coming Of Age With The Bows

Bobby Curran
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Friday - January 20, 2006
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Few experiences in life are as exciting as going off to college. Being on your own for the first time, equal parts anticipation and anxiety, pining for past comforts and facing a future unknown. Throw in the challenge of competing at the highest level of college athletics along with first-year academic adjustments, and you’re talking a full plate.

Welcome, Dominick Waters, this is your life!

The 18-year-old freshman basketball player is only a few months removed from high school stardom at Portland’s Grant High School - which also produced Artie Wilson, June Jones and Linda Coble - but it sometimes feels like half a lifetime ago.

“I found it a little overwhelming at first. Being away from home, missing my friends and family,” says Waters. “Especially my mom. I’m really close to my mom.”

The decision to come to Hawaii wasn’t easy. Waters’high school career made him attractive to many West Coast schools, but in the end he chose Hawaii ahead of Pepperdine and Boston University. “I loved my recruiting trip to Hawaii,” says Waters. “It just felt right. The place, the guys, the coaches - it all fit.”

Waters had known basketball would be part of his future from a very young age. His grandfather, Marion Blackburn, is the owner of a fitness center called the Portland Athletic Club, and installed a basketball court when Waters was small.

“I always had the run of the place,” says Waters, “and my grandfather got me a trainer to work me out. That was great.”

While his parents, and particularly his mother, Nikki, were very supportive of him, Waters credits his grandfather with paving the way for his athletic success.

“My mom and dad were not big sports fans,” says Waters. “My grandfather was the one who knew where to play, where the leagues were, and he’d drive me around and make sure I got the best competition.”

Despite the schoolboy success, Waters found the adjustment to college basketball initially overwhelming. “It’s the physicality and the speed of the game - everyone is so quick,” says Waters. “On defense, you’ve got to get right up into people and be as physical with them as they are on you.”

In spite of those challenges, Waters never let his confidence slide. “I felt, and I still feel, that me and Hiram (Thompson, his roommate) are not your average freshmen. We can play at this level,” says Waters.

With season-ending injuries to Bobby Nash and Matt Gibson, both Waters and Thompson are getting playing time at critical junctures. “I thought I’d play more and sooner,” says Waters ruefully. “My goal was to be a four-year starter, but Deonte (Tatum) is a senior, and I can’t complain about playing behind him. He’s been very helpful, really knows the system. And he’s so athletic. I’ve gotten better going up against him in practice every day.”

Favorite moment so far?

“It’s got to be the Nevada game. I played 20 minutes and only scored nine points, but I felt I ran the team, and of course we won.”

As far as the schoolwork goes, it was also an adjustment. “It took me a while to get used to the fact that there are just classes and tests,” says Waters. “No homework assignments, where you can earn some credit. But I’m getting used to it.”

He still misses his mom and his girlfriend, Brittany Halberg, a basketball player at UNLV, but is finally establishing a comfort zone of his own.

On the most recent road trip to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State, Waters played well in both games.

“It’s a little frustrating trying to prepare when you don’t know if you’re going to play or not,” says Waters. “Coach Wallace is a tough guy, and you can’t read him.” Then he lowers his voice. “He doesn’t really like to play freshmen.”

Another thing about Dominick Waters. He’s a quick learner.

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