Friday, February 9, 2001
Competition has been a part of April Atuaia's life ever since she was growing up in Kahuku.
Wahines Atuaia steps
up to the challenge
By Al Chase
The youngest of six children, she recalls playing basketball in the park near her home. But that wasn't the only sport the neighborhood children played.
"We used to play tackle football when I was little," Atuaia said. "I played with all the boys and my brothers never gave me any slack. I used to get banged up, but after a while, I just got used to it. It was all about getting out there, getting dirty, just being outside and playing."
The freshman guard for the Hawaii women's basketball team began playing the sport in the fourth grade. Her father, Fatu, coached the PAL team.
After two years playing intermediate basketball in a military sponsored league in Kahuku, Atuaia and her mother, Logotaeao, moved to Orem, Utah, to be closer to her brothers. Mark, Donny and Alema were all playing football for Brigham Young University.
The adjustment was a challenge. Atuaia decided to make the best of the situation.
"I'm really close to my mother, but not having my dad (an industrial arts teacher at Kahuku High School) there was difficult," she said.
Encouraged by her parents to participate in sports, Atuaia went out for volleyball, at mom's insistence, her sophomore year at Orem High School.
"It was more a push because I always stayed home before basketball season. I'm glad I went out," said April Atuaia, who was named to all-state teams three years in volleyball and the all-state first team in basketball her junior and senior years.
But six years in Utah was enough for Atuaia. She returned to Hawaii for the second half of her senior year and helped the Kahuku Red Raiders qualify for the state basketball tournament.
Although recruited by BYU and Wyoming, the word got out that she wanted to play for the Wahine.
The UH coaches had tapes of Atuaia playing point guard in Utah and watched her here. The tapes told the important story.
"I can only recall one play at Kahuku," Atuaia said. "It was different from Utah where we had about 20 set plays."
Knowing Atuaia could run a multiple-play offense was key for the coaches. They knew they were recruiting a player who could handle the 1, 2 and 3 positions.
She was introduced to the college game slowly, but earned a starting job at off-guard in the sixth game against Arkansas.
"It was all a surprise starting and seeing time," Atuaia said. "I guess the coaches saw something."
Da Houl, Wahine assistant coach in charge of the guards, was impressed with how she adjusted.
"She was consistent offensively and defensively and executed whatever assignments we gave her," Da Houl said. "She doesn't make freshman mistakes over and over. What she learns in practice and from films she takes into the game."
Atuaia kept a playbook during the early days of practice, but says she doesn't need it anymore.
"The older players kept telling you where you should be," Atuaia said. "It's second nature now. When we first started, I wanted to know those plays right away so the players wouldn't get mad."
Ka Leo O Hawaii