RAINBOW WAHINE BASKETBALL
Basketball Wahine look to take step forward
A veteran Hawaii women's basketball team begins its third season under head coach Jim Bolla tomorrow with expectations of improving on last year's 18-10 record.
Eleven players return, and the expected starting five are very familiar with Bolla's system.
The Rainbow Wahine open their season against Georgetown of the Big East tomorrow in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
WAIKIKI BEACH MARRIOTT CLASSIC
When: Tomorrow and Saturday
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: UH-Georgetown game, KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: UH games, KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: $6-$8; UH students and children free
Schedule: Tomorrow -- Oklahoma vs. Eastern Kentucky, 5 p.m.; Hawaii vs. Georgetown, 7 p.m. Saturday -- third place, 1 p.m.; championship, 3 p.m.
Junior Amy Kotani starts at point guard, with senior Cassidy Chretien and sophomore Catherine Cho backing up. Junior Shannon Nishi will join the group when she's fully recovered from a second torn ACL in her right knee.
"Amy pushes the ball up court, gets people where they need to be and executes the offense well," said Bolla. "The downside is her size (5-foot-2) when we're playing a team with a bigger point guard."
Chretien is more of a creator and scorer.
"We're working with her to get people in the right place and understand a guard's third option is to score," Bolla said.
The Rainbow Wahine are solid at the wings, with seniors Pam Tambini and Janevia Taylor getting the starting jobs. Senior Dalia Solia, junior Saundra Cariaga and freshmen Dita Liepkalne and Megan Tinnin are ready to contribute.
Tambini remained here last summer to work on her ball handling, shooting and conditioning. Taylor is UH's top returning scorer (12.7 points per game).
"We want Janevia to stay at the 2 spot. Megan is more of a two-three zone buster who puts herself in position to get a shot off or steal the ball," Bolla said. "Dita gives us flexibility because of her size (6-0). She can play the 2, 3 or 4 positions. Megan and Dita are pushing people."
The post positions have senior Brittany Grice and junior Tanya Smith starting, with senior Amber Lee and junior Iwona Zagrobelna in reserve.
Grice will start her 73rd game tomorrow. Look for the 6-4 left-hander to shoot more from the outside this year.
"We've told Brittany to take a 3 every now and then to keep people honest. She is really good at getting up and down the court," Bolla said. "She wants a good senior year and is upbeat being a leader."
The post players worked extensively on their hook shots and baby hooks with both hands. There also has been an emphasis on strength conditioning for the hands so rebounded balls aren't lost.
"Tanya is a blue-collar player. She has a knack of being around the ball and gets her hands on the ball despite not having the greatest vertical," Bolla said. "She is much more confident with herself and starting this year.
"Iwona is probably in the best basketball shape she has ever been in. She can shoot the 3 and gives us a lot of different looks for a post player. She has been a pleasant surprise.
"Amber runs the floor pretty quick. She has good post moves and gets people in foul trouble. The disadvantage is she is 6-1 and has to play against taller posts."
By their teammates' vote, Grice and Tambini were elected captains.
"This team has worked really hard. We've all pushed, been competitive because playing time is up for grabs," Grice said. "Being a captain on this team doesn't take as much because everyone knows what to do. I do know I have to keep my poise at all times."
Tambini said, "We (the captains) just do the things that are necessary, like getting everyone to practice on time, so that it is a smooth ride when coach shows up. Everyone is in it for the team this year. No one is in it for themselves."
Bolla says the returnees have really embraced the philosophy the coaches have talked about for two years.
He loaded the nonconference schedule with teams that benefit UH's RPI standing, something hard to accomplish once league play begins.
"We are going to find out early just what we've got," Bolla said.
Georgetown (10-17 last season) lost its opener to Towson 65-57. Junior forward Kieraah Marlow, an all-conference second-team selection, returns as the top scorer (16.4 points per game) and rebounder (8.2 per game).
In tomorrow's first game, Big 12 representative Oklahoma, 31-5 last year and No. 3 in the Associated Press preseason poll, plays Western Kentucky (7-20) of the Sun Belt Conference.
The Sooners, a 105-71 winner over No. 20 DePaul last Sunday, are led by 6-4 sophomore center Courtney Paris, who received the most votes on the AP preseason women's All-America team.
Paris, the daughter of former San Francisco 49ers All-Pro lineman Bubba Paris, averaged 21.9 points, 15 rebounds and 3.3 blocks a game a year ago. She hit 61 percent of her field-goal attempts. Paris is the first women's player in NCAA history to record 700 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in a season. She set the NCAA single-season rebounding record (539).
The Lady Colonials, a 97-39 winner over NCAA Division II Ohio Valley, return two 5-10 starting guards, junior Ashley Cazee (12.7 ppg a year ago) and sophomore Jayme Thiem (6.3 ppg).
Note: Bolla announced the signing yesterday of three players for next year. Keisha Kanekoa, a 5-6 guard from Honokaa High School, and Katie Wilson, a 6-3 center from Governor Simcoe Secondary School in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, signed national letters of intent. Alisha Barfield, a 5-7 guard from Chandler-Gilbert Community College, signed a scholarship agreement.