Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, January 4, 2002


Wahine power forward Natasja Allen has scored in double figures in all 10 of UH's games this season.

Allen becoming Wahine force

By Al Chase

Natasja Allen's New Year's resolution is to relax more and not stress out so much.

That is a curious resolution for someone who is finally living the dream of starting for an NCAA Division I basketball team and leading the Hawaii Wahine in minutes played, scoring and connecting on almost 50 percent of her field-goal attempts.

UH But the 6-foot-2 power forward can get uptight during a game. It shows on her face. Yet, Allen realizes her value to the team is when she plays with emotions under control.

Her teammates are quick to recognize the signs and tell her to relax, to settle down, to enjoy the game.

Allen has been better at that, remaining more composed this season than in the past, when she saw limited action as a reserve. She returned from a summer working out in Europe not sure what the new season would bring, but everything took a positive turn early in fall practice.

"I felt really comfortable during pick-up games," said Allen, who hails from Port Orchard, Wash. "The team is closer this year, and it was just more fun to go out and play.

"I would say I'm a lot more confident in what I can do this year. I'm not in (Kylie Galloway's) shadow, and the more you play, the more confident you get. I knew this year it would be important for me to step up."

Allen's emergence as a solid Division I player came at the right time for UH. She has scored in double figures in all 10 Wahine games and has twice as many points this year (154) than she scored in 40 games her first two years.

Her position coach, Jon Newlee, said, "Natasja definitely knew the 4 spot was hers to lose, and that helped her. She has the best moves of all our post players, and she has matured tremendously since she came here as a freshman.

"Last year she would take herself out of a game mentally. There was never any problem physically. This year she is doing what she wants to do."

It took time for Allen to reach this point in her collegiate career. Named Narrows League Most Valuable Player her junior year at South Kitsap High School and an all-state selection her senior year, she wasn't used to riding the bench. Her introduction to college ball was an eye opener.

"Hedy (Liu) kicked my butt every day in practice. I finally realized my role would be to sit on the bench and cheer and go in for 30 seconds. It was really hard because I've never sat on the bench my entire life," Allen said.

She never got used to it, which is good because any coach will tell you they don't want players who are satisfied sitting on the bench.

So for two seasons, Allen worked and learned. She didn't let up despite spending last summer in Europe. She lived in Germany her first nine years while her father, Earl, was in the Army, and her mother's (Yvonne) family is from Holland.

And she discovered some unexpected competition in Europe.

"A friend of my father in Holland owned a gym, and he let me work out for free. I would practice with the Royal Police," Allen said.

"They were very intense and told me to work out harder. They said, 'Don't be a little weenie.' That was good. Later, when we traveled to Germany, France and Austria, I would find pick-up games. It wasn't hard, because I speak German.

"At first, the guys would say 'Wow, a girl who plays basketball,' and they tried to get rid of me, but after I played, they were amazed."

After graduation, scheduled for December 2003, Allen wants to live in Europe. She is majoring in exercise science and says the demand for physical therapists there is big.

For now, she is content to be a force for the Wahine under the basket, driving left or right for the basket or putting up a jumper from the 10- to 12-foot range. She would like to perform better when it comes to rebounding.

After April Atuaia grabbed 16 rebounds against Boise State, Allen told herself she had to do better in that department. It was a little internal challenge,

"As long as someone gets the rebounds, I don't care, but when you look at the stats and see a guard with 16 rebounds, it's kind of funny," Allen said. "Christen (Roper) and I talked about it, and we decided we box out and April just runs in and grabs the ball."

So far, it has worked. The Wahine are outrebounding opponents by 10 per game.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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