FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Junior Saundra Cariaga expects to have a much better year now that the Hawaii coaching staff moved her over to the wing.
Cariaga ready for increased role
Saundra Cariaga finally found her comfort zone after two seasons of sporadic playing time for the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine basketball team.
Waikiki Beach Marriott Classic
When: Today, Oklahoma vs. Eastern Kentucky, 5 p.m.; Hawaii vs. Georgetown, 7 p.m. Tomorrow, third place, 1 p.m.; championship, 3 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center.
TV: UH-Georgetown live, KFVE, Channel 5.
Radio: Both UH games, live, KKEA, 1420-AM.
Tickets: All seats general admission. $8 adults, $6 seniors. UH students with valid ID and children ages 4-18 free.
Notes: Wahine head coach Jim Bolla is 29-25 (.537) in two seasons at UH, 329-145 (.694) overall.
The 5-foot-9 junior is likely to receive increased action this season now that the coaching staff has settled on her being a wing.
"I always thought I was a wing, but sometimes he (coach Jim Bolla) would put me in at the point. I'm sure there was a reason. I'm taller, but I was not comfortable," Cariaga said.
"I like playing wing because I'm a slasher. If the baseline is open, I'm taking it. I can do a lot of backdoor cuts, make use of my speed."
She played only 144 minutes in 23 appearances her first two years in the program. Cariaga was hampered her freshman year by a left-shoulder injury that kept popping out.
"I couldn't do much of anything with my left hand. Eric (Okazaki, UH head trainer) finally told me that I should take a good look at things and have surgery," Cariaga said.
She had the surgery after the season and remained on campus that summer to rehab so she would be ready.
"I didn't want to sit out a year," said Cariaga, who scored a career-high 10 points in a win over Campbell on Dec. 17, 2005.
However, she only played in eight of 17 Western Athletic Conference games a year ago and wants to play more this season.
"Saundra has made a lot of progress this year. Last year she looked like a deer in headlights. She has matured, practices very well and is ready this year," Bolla said.
A four-year letter winner at Kealakehe High School and four-time Big Island Interscholastic Federation all-star selection, she received interest from Washington State, San Jose State and Portland, but committed early to Hawaii.
"I always knew I wanted to play here, to be at home. I'm a local girl. I've been to the mainland and I've seen what it is like," Cariaga said.
She isn't bothered facing taller players, and if her offense isn't clicking, there are other ways to contribute.
"The offense will come, but getting a stop on defense helps get the offense going," said Cariaga, who sets little goals for herself each day.
"I make sure I've read a chapter I need to and that I understand it. I make sure I'm ready to practice. I work on the little things to get better each day."
Cariaga is a business major but hasn't decided what avenue she'll take after graduation.
"I'm excited for the season. I've got two years of basketball left," Cariaga said.