RAINBOW WAHINE BASKETBALL
Bolla is ready to get UH rolling
But the coach is not sure what to expect due to limited practice
SALT LAKE CITY » Hawaii women's basketball coach Jim Bolla doesn't quite have his team figured out just yet, and he's hoping the Rainbow Wahine prove equally baffling to opponents once the season begins.
"We're an enigma wrapped in a riddle," Bolla said in describing his feel for this year's squad at the Western Athletic Conference Basketball Preview.
Bolla and the Wahine coaching staff will start to get a better idea of the personality of this year's team when practice begins, starting with tonight's intrasquad scrimmage at Twilight Ohana.
Bolla enters his third season in Manoa looking to answer some questions despite a veteran squad that includes eight returnees and six seniors, led by preseason All-WAC picks in guard Janevia Taylor and center Brittany Grice.
He attributes his uncertainty to the NCAA's new rule reducing the amount of time teams can work together early in the fall semester.
"We're allowed 2 hours a week starting on (Sept. 15), last year it was 4 starting at the beginning of school," Bolla said. "It really has had an effect on what we're trying to do."
What the Wahine will try to do once they get rolling with Bolla's 3-hour practices starting tomorrow is to implement an up-tempo game while distributing the scoring.
Although Taylor (12.3 points per game last season) and Grice (11.5) are UH's top returning scorers, Bolla wants to spread the points evenly among the regulars. Last year, seven players took at least one turn as the team's high scorer.
"We like to run a real balanced offense, five people in double figures," Bolla said. "It gives us the flexibility that on any night anybody can go and get 25. So we're not real dependent on any one player. My whole philosophy when you have one player you go through the other four tend to stand around and watch. We want to have everybody involved.
"It leaves it wide open and it makes it tougher on teams that have to defend us," he added. "'Who are we going to stop tonight? Last week's game Nevi had 20 points, before that Gricey got over 20.' "
Bolla wants to keep Taylor free to score by keeping her at shooting guard rather than playing the point, where he's looking to Amy Kotani, Cassidy Chretien and Catherine Cho to be the primary playmakers.
"(Taylor) plays so hard when she plays the point, she wears herself out and she can't score," he said. "We think we're in position this year to keep her more at the two-guard position."
Grice (6-foot-4) led the WAC and ranked 15th in the country in blocked shots with 2.5 per game and snagged a team-best 7.5 rebounds per game. Top reserve Tanya Smith (6-3) also returns in the post after contributing 8.2 points and seven rebounds per game off the bench. Senior Amber Lee (6-1) and junior college transfer Iwona Zagrobelna (6-4) are also in the post rotation.
Along with Taylor, the Wahine have depth on the wings, led by senior starter Pam Tambini (7.9) and versatile Dalia Solia (6.8). Bolla is also excited by the potential of freshman Dita Liepkalne.
"She's just a good solid player," Bolla said. "Good size, can shoot the ball."
Freshman wing Megan Tinnin joins the program after a heralded prep career in Albuquerque, N.M. Point guard Leilani Galdones, a freshman from Kamehameha-Hawaii, recently had knee surgery and won't be available early in the season.
The team's workouts over the next month lead into a challenging nonconference schedule.
The Wahine open with Georgetown on Nov. 17 in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Classic and could face Oklahoma, led by All-American Courtney Paris, the next day.
They'll also play Big 12 power Texas Tech in a Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic that also features North Carolina, Arkansas and UCLA.
"We're going to find out early," Bolla said. "We're going to play the best RPI teams we can play. We really want to get some of our RPI games early and find out how good we are."
Doubling up: The Wahine will play an exhibition game against Hawaii Pacific, coached by former UH assistant Liz O'Brien, on Nov. 4. The Sea Warriors are entering their first season as an NCAA Division II program. The 4 p.m. game opens a doubleheader at the Stan Sheriff Center, with the UH men's team facing UH-Hilo at 7.