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Hawaii signs Kuehu


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POSTED: Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Dana Takahara-Dias era of Rainbow Wahine basketball is off to a roaring start.

The new Hawaii women's basketball coach announced the official signing of former Punahou standout Shawna-Lei Kuehu to a scholarship agreement yesterday as her first addition to the program.

“;It's a good day for basketball, but it's an even greater day for Wahine basketball,”; Takahara-Dias said.

Kuehu — considered one of the best high school girls basketball players in state history — was slated to play at California for the 2008-09 season but didn't enroll there, and the Bears later released her from her commitment.

Kuehu, who was away from collegiate basketball for a full year, has met all NCAA requirements and is enrolled at UH, Takahara-Dias said. She is eligible to play in the 2009-10 season.

Kuehu's signing ends months of anticipation that she'd join the program after she told the Star-Bulletin in February she planned to enroll at UH and play basketball there.

Interim head coach Pat Charity and assistant Matthew Paton laid the groundwork for Kuehu in the spring and kept contact with her until the hiring of Takahara-Dias, who picked up where they left off in late May and closed the deal.

“;For her to be our first signing is an amazing, amazing victory for us and the program,”; Takahara-Dias said. “;She will bring so much to our team, in terms of basketball skills and her talent level. (With) one year of maturity under her belt after sitting out for a year, makes her even more hungry of a player and dedicated and committed as a student. So I think it's a win-win for everyone.”;

The 5-foot-10 Kuehu averaged 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.6 steals per game her senior year for the Buffanblu. In the 2008 state final against 'Iolani, Kuehu exploded for 20 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to secure Punahou's third championship in her four years.

Any worries that Kuehu has lost a step because of her year off can be put to rest. At a pre-draft camp for the upcoming D.One women's NCAA summer league, Kuehu was spry and active in scrimmages, looking every bit the player who was State Player of the Year her freshman, sophomore and senior seasons. Her junior season was derailed by a knee injury.

Takahara-Dias has known Kuehu since coaching her on the Team Aloha all-star squad in her high school days.

“;I had a chance to see her play this summer, even before I was applying for this job, because we'd been keeping in contact,”; Takahara-Dias said. “;She hasn't lost a step at all. You talk about your rustiness and inability to be in the game, but she's been working very hard in the offseason.”;

Kuehu will play her twin sister, Shaena-Lyn, at least twice a year in Western Athletic Conference competition when the Wahine play Idaho home-and-home.

The Wahine have two more scholarships they can offer to recruits for the coming season.

Funding for WAC women

The NCAA awarded the WAC $85,000 as part of a program to boost the profile of women's basketball, the league announced yesterday.

The money will be split among the nine WAC members in an effort to attract a greater number of fans to games.

 

PROFILE

; Shawna-Lei Kuehu

Shawna-Lei Kuehu signed to play for UH next year:

» Accolades: Three-time Star-Bulletin Player of the Year (2005, 2006, 2008)

» Clutch scorer: Holds the state tournament single-game scoring record of 37 points on 16-for-23 shooting in 2006 title game