Danielson, UH going in right direction


POSTED: Wednesday, September 23, 2009

She is a compass and a GPS. Someone who can tell you where you're headed and also how to get there.

Much has been expected of Kanani Danielson even before she first put on the No. 5 jersey for the Hawaii volleyball team. The Rainbow Wahine sophomore outside hitter has more than delivered, with success that might be only outdone by her humility.

Congratulate Danielson after a match and she deflects the praise, crediting God and her teammates. Those watching her performance beg to differ, voting the Kamehameha graduate the national high school player of the year, the Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year last season, the 2009 WAC preseason player of the year, and the most outstanding player in two of Hawaii's three tournaments this year.

Those were accolades from objective observers. Ask those with a bit of a biased view and Danielson consistently is defined by one word: Amazing.

“;She's our go-to player, can do anything we need her to do on the court,”; freshman middle Brittany Hewitt said. “;She's just amazing.”;

“;I don't think she's human,”; senior hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru added. “;She's just so good, works so hard and, for someone who is so gifted, she's so humble.

“;But as good as her offense is, what people don't notice is how well she plays defense. You don't notice because she makes it look so easy.”;

Danielson's statistics are impressive: a team-leading 3.97 kills per set and 2.16 digs per set, third-best among the Wahine. But it's her on-court presence that may be the most valuable.

“;She's so fundamentally sound,”; Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. “;She sees things most players of her age don't, makes the right reads most of the time, anticipates so well.






» Boise State (0-10) at No. 4 Hawaii (9-2), 7 p.m. tomorrow, Stan Sheriff Center


» Radio: ESPN 1420-AM


» TV: KFVE (Ch. 5)


» Tickets: $5-$17


“;Her overall game is very natural and she's mature beyond her years. You don't see many players that young that understand the game as well as she does.”;

It's subtle, it's quiet but it's obvious that few players have the ability to take over, to change a match, as Danielson. It happened in last Saturday's Set 3 against Pepperdine. On successive plays after the Waves closed to 16-14, she had a block and two kills on overpasses.

Although undersized at 5-foot-10, Danielson has explosiveness and a 36-plus-inch vertical that allows her to beat a taller block. It's the same abilities that led to her state high jump title as a senior, the only season she competed in track for the Warriors.

Athletic? Danielson had never done the high jump before that season.

“;It was something to do besides volleyball, volleyball, volleyball,”; said Danielson, who legally changed her last name from Herring last season. “;I thought about playing basketball, but a lot of my friends were getting ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries and I picked something else that wouldn't be so risky, since I had already committed to UH.

“;I didn't know what I was doing, but I thought the high jump was cool. I was blessed to be able to compete in something completely new and do well.”;

It's been the story of her life.

“;I don't even want to think about if we hadn't signed her,”; Shoji said. “;We went after her as hard as you can go after someone. We knew from an early age we wanted her in our program.

“;She's probably the best hitter out of the local girls we've had. I think of Lily (Kahumoku) and Joselyn (Robins). Obviously Kanani is right there. She's still young, she's gong to better herself physically and get better. When she went down (sprained ankle against UCLA) ... we have no one to replace her. It changes the whole dynamics of the team without her.”;

Danielson missed one match last season with the same ankle injury. She said she was about 80 percent, but that being hurt is, to use one of her favorite terms, “;a blessing.”;

I'm still working on my timing,”; she said. “;I look at it as a positive, makes me realize I have to work harder.”;

And the preseason WAC honor?

“;It's a nice blessing,”; she said. “;But I think everyone should be the WAC player of the year. It's a team sport and it's not just one person who controls the outcome.”;

Wahine setter Dani Mafua has another perspective.

“;I've seen her play since her freshman year in high school,”; said Mafua, who was a junior at Mid-Pacific that season. “;I've seen her grow and continue to excel. She has such great instincts and makes things look easy.

“;She's going to go places and we're going places with her.”;