RAINBOW WAHINE BASKETBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tanya Smith is seeing her first serious playing time for Hawaii this season and averages 8.8 points per game.
Smith finds her way into Wahine rotation
Last year Tanya Smith played a total of 13 minutes in five games and scored two points for the Hawaii women's basketball team.
This year she surpassed those numbers in the season opener against Southern California, playing 18 minutes and scoring 12 points.
LOUISIANA TECH AT HAWAII
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE, Channel 5
Radio: Live, KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: All seats general admission. $8 adults, $6 seniors. UH students with valid ID and children ages 4-18 free.
Smith has followed up with consistent production off the bench in all 12 games as an integral part of UH coach Jim Bolla's rotation of the front line.
She leads the Rainbow Wahine with a .562 field-goal percentage, hitting 41 of her 73 shots; is second in rebounds with 76 (6.3 a game); and makes 70 percent of her free throws. In her last five games, Smith is 20-for-25 from the field.
Smith has achieved these statistics with a shot that usually starts down low, around the chest and, at times, is launched with two hands.
"Tanya has, shall we say, an unorthodox shot. But, as long as the ball goes in we're not going to change it. She has another shot where she just seems to be throwing the ball, but it goes in," said Bolla.
"Tanya wasn't ready last year. It is a big difference from high school to Division I and it is a totally different style."
The Aussie's stay at UH isn't her first lengthy visit to this country.
Smith got a taste of life in the United States when she spent her junior year as an exchange student at Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore.
She remained in the Beaver State following the school year to play in summer tournaments. Coaches from Hawaii, Weber State and Dartmouth took notice.
Smith returned to Sydney for her senior year at Jannali High School. UH and Weber State continued to recruit the 6-foot-3 forward/center.
"I decided that if I came back to America I might as well go halfway between Australia and the mainland," said Smith. "I got along with the coaches (retired coach Vince Goo and staff) and I liked what UH had to offer. Beside, Utah is too cold. I don't like winter."
She wanted to enroll for the 2004 spring semester and redshirt the same way fellow Australian Raylene Howard did, but wasn't cleared by the NCAA until that March.
Smith arrived in the fall of 2004 and went through a transition period.
"It was difficult because a lot more is expected of you, which is lot different from Australia. There we only practice twice a week, play a game on the weekend and don't do any conditioning except a few sprints after practice," said Smith.
"Then I didn't know the expectations of the new coaches and was kind of lost as to where I stood. I kind of figured it out in practice and learned from the other players."
This year everything became easier for Smith. She felt settled in and more aware of her surroundings. Although Bolla says the sophomore isn't where he would like her to be yet, there is a lot of improvement.
"What Tanya does is hustle and play hard. She has the long arms, blocks out well and gets rebounds. She has a knack of being around the ball," said Bolla.
"I think she benefits from playing with (Brittany) Grice and Alofa (Toiaivao) because the emphasis (by opponents) is on them. But, there may be more attention on Tanya after the last two games. She is making progress."
Smith, who did not start playing basketball until she was 15, wants to go into the advertising and communication field within the fashion industry and expects to graduate in 2008.