Sunday, October 21, 2001
Kahumokus promise:ILY Kahumoku is big on promises. And on keeping them.
I will be back
The WAC player of the year isHawaii comes home a winner
enjoying her time away but promises
to return to school next year
By Cindy Luis
Last season's Western Athletic Conference volleyball player of the year guarantees she will be back in a Hawaii uniform next season.
But she won't be back in school in January as Wahine coach Dave Shoji had hoped. When Shoji spoke last week by phone with Kahumoku -- now living in Pensacola, Fla. -- he thought she was leaning toward returning to the Manoa campus for the spring semester.
"I don't know if I can afford to come back that soon, there's a couple of factors involved with me staying here for a while longer," Kahumoku said in an interview with the Star-Bulletin on Friday. "I can't wait to come back. I've missed my teammates and the fans.
"But I'm enjoying the time away right now."
For the first time in more than 10 years, volleyball is not part of her life. The All-American outside hitter is working as a caregiver and giving her body a much-needed rest.
A recent stomach virus caused her to drop 14 pounds from her 6-foot-2 frame. Kahumoku is down to 155, well off her previous playing weight.
Her right wrist, injured in practice last October, still pains her some. She still has some back spasms, but not as severe as the past two years. An ankle injury while training with the U.S. national A2 team last summer is not a problem.
"My ankle is perfect," she said. "It's so nice to wake up and not be in pain.
"I haven't been this happy in a very long time."
Many couldn't understand why she left, coming off a year of national accolades where the Wahine reached the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Some of it had to do with her boyfriend, Albert Tecul, a Spaniard who had hoped to play basketball for the Rainbows. He moved from Hawaii to Florida last year and is playing for Pensacola Junior College; the 6-4 guard is hoping to transfer to Hawaii Pacific next season.
But more than anything else, Kahumoku's break had to do with keeping a promise to herself. One where she said she would take time off ... and did.
It was that simple, she said. And she wants to dispel the rumors that she left for any other reason than wanting a break, including transferring to another school. (Coaches have called her parents' home in Alabama to inquire about the possibility but were told no).
That she left came as no surprise to those who had been listening. Kahumoku had asked to take the year off following her freshman season, one where she was named WAC Freshman of the Year.
Shoji told her, "All-Americans don't take a year off."
But she did, 12 months later, telling friends she wanted a chance to "be a normal kid for once."
Kahumoku hadn't lived with her parents since her sophomore year in high school in Texas. She boarded for two years at Kamehameha Schools where she led the Warriors to two consecutive state titles and was twice named state player of the year.
Then came college and all the pressures of being a Hawaiian on the most visible women's volleyball team in the country.
"Someone once said, 'Pressure is a privilege," said Kahumoku. "Playing for the Wahine is a different world and I'm blessed to have that experience. It's so wonderful to be able to do what you love and so many people appreciate you for it."
Playing for the U.S. last summer was a different type of pressure ("I didn't even expect to make the team," she said). But Kahumoku enjoyed traveling in Europe and being teammates with former Wahine Robyn Ah Mow, Heather Bown and Therese Crawford.
"It was a great experience," said Kahumoku. "I wasn't sure if I could compete at that level.
"But it is very cool when I think that my last competition was against Russia and I have a USA jersey with my name on the back."
She promises she will return because she loves volleyball and loves Hawaii.
She will be eligible to compete next fall because of what the NCAA terms a "missed-term exception" that allows an athlete to miss up to two consecutive semesters without being penalized.
"I went to summer school so I'm caught up on my credits," she said. "I had hoped to take some classes at the junior college but they wouldn't transfer."
Kahumoku said she keeps up on the current Wahine team and was going to surprise them last month when the team played at Louisiana Tech. The trip was derailed when she became ill.
With volleyball no longer the focus of her life, Kahumoku has decided to try a few new things. She's been reading a lot and has become hooked on Kurt Vonnegut, picking up one of his latest novels "Galapagos" the other day.
She's also joined a new writers community and dreams of writing a children's book.
"It's been nice to find other things that I enjoy," Kahumoku said. "But I love volleyball and I miss playing.
"I will be back."
Ka Leo O Hawaii