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Wahine lose Kuehu for season with torn ACL


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The shield of optimism remains intact for the Hawaii women's basketball team.

Coach Dana Takahara-Dias wouldn't allow the Rainbow Wahine to drop their heads—for long, anyway—after the team learned yesterday that freshman Shawna Kuehu will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in her right knee.

Kuehu, the ex-Punahou star, twisted awkwardly and went down on the first play of overtime in a loss to East Tennessee State on Sunday. She averaged 12.6 points (second highest on the team) and 6.6 rebounds (first) in starting four of five games for the Rainbow Wahine (1-4). She also led the team in blocked shots with eight.

“;The team understands an injury is part of the game,”; Takahara-Dias said. “;It's always hurtful when a teammate goes down, but they understand we need to regroup, refocus and move forward. Shawna's part of that mix, too. Even though she's not out there on the court playing for us, she's still very much part of the team on the sidelines and being the inspirational leader.”;

It's horrible deja vu for Kuehu, who missed all of her junior year at Punahou with a left ACL tear. But she was even-keeled as the team practiced in the Stan Sheriff Center yesterday.

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“;It came as a shock. I couldn't believe that it's happening again,”; Kuehu said. “;There's a reason for everything; it's a chance for my teammates to step up now.”;

She said she won't have surgery for another two weeks while the swelling goes down and she takes final exams. Kuehu is expecting an 11-month rehab process if the injury holds to form like her previous one.

“;I know how to treat it now, and the kind of stuff I can do,”; Kuehu said. “;It'll let me get my left leg strong at the same time. You can't really do anything about it, you know. It happened, I just have to look forward to what's next.”;

Takahara-Dias said Kuehu (who can use a redshirt year) will have four full years to play once she is healthy.

Also, the coach said point guard Jennifer Hamilton has requested a transfer off the team at the end of the semester. The 5-foot-6 sophomore, of Diamond Ranch, Calif., averaged 10.3 minutes in the first three games of the season, but was inactive for the last two. She had career highs of nine points and five assists against Louisiana Tech last year.

UH gets a player back, though, in junior college transfer Julita Bungaite, who redshirted last year and sat out the first five games of this season with NCAA eligibility issues.

“;I haven't played for two years, (but) I'm ready to help my team to win,”; said the 6-2 Bungaite, a good outside shooter who put up 13.0 points and nine rebounds per game at Weatherford (Texas) College. “;We have to stay together. We gotta keep going. Stay strong.”;

UH will try to snap a four-game losing streak tomorrow at 7 p.m. against San Francisco (2-1) at the Stan Sheriff Center.