The last time we checked in with University of Hawaii slotback Miah Ostrowski, Ron Lee was his position coach, Bob Nash was the UH basketball coach and the resulting story appeared in a different-but-the-same newspaper as this one that technically no longer exists.
Things have changed, and yet they haven’t.
It was less than 10 months ago, last October, when I interviewed Ostrowski … as he observed UH basketball practice.
And, just as it was then, Ostrowski is on the football team but not on the basketball team — yet.
Everybody was kind of hush-hush about it back then, but it seemed as though the two-sport star from Punahou was set to hit the hardwood as soon as football season was done in a few weeks.
But then … nothing. And the Rainbows could have used him, especially toward the end of the WAC schedule when so many UH guards were suspended, injured or underachieving.
Now he’s a third-year sophomore. Yesterday, after football practice, Ostrowski said everything was a go last year until a sad turn of events. "Both coaches (Nash and Greg McMackin) said OK," he said. "But on the day of the Wisconsin game (the last football game) my grandmother died. I was asked to be a speaker at the services and there were things we had to take care of as a family. It changed my priorities."
FOOTBALL REMAINS Ostrowski’s first sport. It’s where his scholarship is. But Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares have the starting spots locked down and other more experienced backup slots remain on the scene. However, receivers coach Mouse Davis sees him making a big impact in 2011.
"He’s a bright young fella. He’s reliable and he’s very athletic," Davis said. "Right now I don’t see him as a guy getting a lot of playing time (this season), because we’re stacked up. But after another year …"
Ostrowski made a tremendous catch yesterday. Spectacular, but not unique: It’s one you and I have seen made a hundred times and Davis maybe a thousand. But the thing that makes it special is that we’ve seen it not made five times as often.
It’s the one where the receiver extends horizontally for a pass thrown a little far ahead of him. The easy part is getting your hands on the ball; the hard part is holding onto it when you hit the ground.
"You roll to your side so your arm hits the ground first, not your hands with the ball," Ostrowski said. "You don’t really think about it."
You might be tempted to file that under technique, but it’s more instinct. As things often go with truly special athletes, it just happens.
"The hardest catches are the ones right at you," Ostrowski said. "Just like the hardest shot in basketball, the wide-open layup."
DAVIS WAS a three-sport athlete in college: football, basketball and baseball. At 5-foot-6, he shot a lot of 3-pointers decades before the 3-pointer was invented. He said a lot of the time they were zero-pointers.
"My coach showed me my shot chart once. It looked like a bunch of BBs, because they were all white circles (denoting misses). He said we needed more of those colored in," Davis said. "I told him if I shoot and it’s short, well, that means it’s a pass."
Davis said he looks forward to Ostrowski taking his talents to the Stan Sheriff Center once football’s done for the year. Presumably McMackin’s still in favor of it, especially since it looks like basketball guard Leroy Lutu is headed to football to play safety (or linebacker); seems like a fair trade — but not really a trade, since Ostrowski will still play football.
New coach Gib Arnold told our basketball beat writer Brian McInnis a couple of weeks ago that he didn’t know yet if he had a spot for Ostrowski. I’m guessing he will eventually welcome his fellow Punahou alum.
"I haven’t talked to (Arnold) personally," Ostrowski said. "I’d love to play, if it’s OK with both coaches. But my concentration is on football."
And on making great catches.
Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.