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3 Wahine seniors would love to go out with a victory


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POSTED: Sunday, March 01, 2009

Put aside the losses, the off-the-court distractions and the frustration.

The Hawaii women's basketball team still plans to send out seniors Catherine Cho, Ebony Jones and Tara Hittle the right way today at 5 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Senior night festivities for the three begin after the Rainbow Wahine's game against third-place Boise State (16-12, 9-5 Western Athletic Conference), and the team would like nothing better than to end its home schedule with a win against one of the WAC's better teams.

“;Definitely, this is a big time,”; said acting head coach Pat Charity, who will lead the team for the sixth straight contest while Jim Bolla is on a paid leave of absence. “;I think the (past) teams that we had, and the fans, they've been so emotional. Not that (these guys) won't be emotional, but their big thing is they want to win their last game on their home floor. They're more into the, 'I just want to go out strong.'”;

UH (6-21, 3-11) was locked into the WAC tournament play-in game after Friday night's loss to Idaho at home, as it can no longer surpass New Mexico State for seventh place.

No matter. All three seniors are still grateful for having been a part of the team, whether it was for four years like Cho, or two like Hittle and Jones.

Cho arrived as a freshman from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. She didn't expect to play basketball here after a sometimes difficult time at South Torrance High back home, but found herself with more free time than she liked. After trying out, the 5-foot-6 guard made it as a walk-on. She became a scholarship player her junior year, and earned a starting role at the point this season through sheer hard work.

“;I'm kind of looking forward to just relaxing,”; Cho said. “;But at the same time, I wouldn't take any of it back, and I'm happy to say it's worked out for me.”;

She's averaged 4.6 points, shot 32.4 percent on 3-pointers and dished out 54 assists this season in starting 23 of the team's 27 games. Cho is set to get her psychology degree this semester and might try her hand at coaching here before going to graduate school.

“;It's funny, because people think I have family here,”; Cho said. “;I don't—I've never been here before. (But) ... it seems like I belong here. I love it, I'd never take that decision back.”;

Jones, a 6-1 forward, arrived from Wallace State College in Selma, Ala., in 2007 after playing there two years. She's averaged 2.1 points in 20 games this season as a reserve and had her best single-game effort last year when she scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Grambling State. Charity describes her as “;old-school”; and appreciates the way she'll take a hard foul to prevent an easy basket by an opponent, despite her lean frame.

“;It was a very, very big culture shock for me (coming from the South),”; said Jones, who will graduate next semester in health and interdisciplinary studies. “;I've never been to a place that's so diverse. For me, it was hard to adapt. But I think I did well. My teammates helped me out a lot—that's why I'm really appreciative of them.”;

Jones plans to go to graduate school at Alabama State, near her native Montgomery.

Hittle is widely known for her exploits on the Wahine volleyball team but also is a valued member of the hoops squad for her tenacity and grittiness in the post.

“;Tara's been great because I believe she's a leader ... in that we don't really go to the boards, but Tara will go to the boards every time,”; Charity said. “;She has a mentality that if you foul her, she doesn't care. She's going to go right back up.”;

Hittle, at 6 feet, has notched two double-doubles this season in 14 games. She's been limited by late transitions from the volleyball team each of the last two years, and more recently by a leg injury that might keep her out of tonight's game.

“;The basketball team is great girls. I had a lot of fun with them,”; said Hittle, who's averaged 6.9 points and a team-best 6.9 rebounds. “;Everyone works really hard, and we have fun together, inside of basketball and outside of basketball. A lot of good memories with them, definitely going to miss them. I want to thank them for letting me on the team and just being accepting throughout my short basketball career.”;

Hittle is set to graduate in the fall in physical education and health and might look to play volleyball professionally overseas afterward.