Wahine looking to solve lineup question marks
The outlook this season for the Rainbow Wahine basketball team is filled with mystery and intrigue.
"We're kind of a question mark right now," Hawaii coach Jim Bolla said Wednesday at the WAC basketball meetings in Salt Like City. "We only have two players coming back who have any long-game experience."
The mystery comes in the form of six new faces to a team that lost three starters from a season ago.
The intrigue is in freshman Keisha Kanekoa, whom Bolla couldn't stop praising at Wednesday's meetings.
"Keisha's going to be a great surprise to the conference," Bolla said. "I've had All-Americans before, but she might be the best one I've had at this point."
Fans will get a chance to see the new-look Wahine in action tonight as part of the Twilight Ohana festivities at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The program begins at 7 p.m. and will feature scrimmages by both the men's and women's basketball teams, as well as a slam-dunk contest.
It will also be an opportunity to see Kanekoa suit up in a Hawaii uniform for the first time.
The Honokaa graduate is one of the prize recruits of Bolla's latest recruiting class. Bolla, who is entering his fourth season at the helm, has already planned much of his offense and defense this season around a guard who has yet to play a minute at the collegiate level.
"She's probably going to be the key for us this year in what we do," Bolla said. "I think she's capable of doing it as a freshman."
Kanekoa wowed Hawaii fans in last season's high school state tournament. She averaged more than 30 points a game in helping Honokaa reach the semifinals.
She will also be instrumental on the defensive side of the ball as well.
"We're going to be more guard-oriented this year offensively and defensively," Bolla said. "With the guard-play we have this year, we can start putting in that ameba defense."
Kanekoa should help offset the loss of three starters, including guard Janevia Taylor, who totaled more than 1,000 points in her Hawaii career.
The Wahine will also have to replace center Brittany Grice, who graduated among the leaders in career blocks in the WAC, and Pam Tambini, who averaged more than 12 points a game.
Senior forward Tanya Smith is the marquee returnee. She was tabbed a preseason first-team All-WAC selection after averaging a double-double in league play last season.
"One of the nice things about Tanya is she's not real flashy," Bolla said.
"She's a blue-collar kind of player."
Incoming 6-foot-3 freshman Katie Wilson was one player Bolla was counting on to help fill the void in the middle, but she's out for the season after injuring her shoulder.
A pair of junior college transfers who could contribute right away are 6-foot-1 forward Ebony Jones and Jamie Hawkins.
Hawaii opens the season Nov. 16 in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Classic, hosting Washington out of the Pac-10.
Star-Bulletin writer Brian McInnis contributed to this report.
PRESEASON WOMEN'S RANKINGS
|1. Boise State (7)
|2. Nevada (1)
|3. Louisiana Tech (1)
|4. Fresno State
|5. New Mexico State
|7. Utah State
|8. San Jose State
|1. Boise State (9)
|2. Louisiana Tech (2)
|3. Nevada (1)
|4. New Mexico State (2)
|5. Fresno State (1)
|7. Utah State
|9. San Jose State