Bolla ready to run when Rainbow Wahine open tomorrow
In a sense, Jim Bolla considers his fourth season in Manoa really his first.
The Hawaii women's basketball coach set the groundwork for his fast-paced system over his first three years while coaching players initially brought in by former coach Vince Goo and his staff. This season, with just a couple of exceptions, the Rainbow Wahine roster is comprised of players trained under Bolla's watch.
"This is kind of the birth of my team, with players we recruited and solely coached," Bolla said. "All they know is what we've taught them the last three years, and everything we do is up-tempo.
"It's the beginning of what we talked about when I was hired. This is the kind of style we want to play."
The Rainbow Wahine open their season tomorrow against Washington in the opening round of the Waikiki Beach Marriott Classic. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m., with the tournament opener between Northern Arizona and UC Davis set for 3.
With his system in place, Bolla promises a quicker pace this season, with a guard-oriented offense that won't hesitate to launch shots from the perimeter and full-court pressure on defense.
Among the goals Bolla has set for the team is to make 10 3-pointers per game, which means launching at least 20 attempts.
"I'll stop practice and say, 'Why didn't you shoot it? It's open,' " Bolla said. "We have one general rule with our kids on offense, when you get the ball you're the first option to score.
"We want you to go for it, and we want you to use it within the context of our offense."
The Wahine plan to start a three-guard lineup featuring the Big Island triumvirate of senior Saundra Cariaga and freshmen Leilani Galdones and Keisha Kanekoa. Sophomore Dita Liepkalne is slated to start at forward, with senior Tanya Smith in the post.
"It's going to be a completely different look," said Smith, who teamed with Brittany Grice in the post last year. "It'll be much faster. ... Even though we may lack size, we have a lot of hustle."
Bolla expects to go nine to 10 players deep, with Amy Kotani, Catherine Cho and Shannon Nishi providing depth in the backcourt and 3-point specialist Megan Tinnin helping both at guard and forward. Iwona Zagrobelna, a 6-foot-4 senior, backs up Smith in the post.
While the 6-3 Smith, a first-team preseason All-Western Athletic Conference selection, is a proven producer as Hawaii's leading returning scorer (10.8 points per game) and rebounder (9.2 per game), Bolla said a key tomorrow will be the other four players crashing the boards against a Washington team that features six players 6-2 and taller.
"I'm real happy with our guard play right now," Bolla said. "I think rebounding's going to be a big concern for us, especially against Washington with their big front line. I think our pluses are going to be our team speed and our pressure defense."
Notes: The arena will be cleared at the end of the women's game, then reopened for the men's game between UH and Illinois at 8. ... The Wahine will have more depth in the frontcourt when Tara Hittle joins the team following volleyball season. ... Freshman Katie Wilson and sophomore transfer Allie Patterson will redshirt this season.