After sitting out last season because of eligibility reasons, Hawaii's Alofa Toiaivao is getting a chance to show what she can do.

Toiaivao emerging

Alofa Toiaivao waited one long year before being able to make her presence felt on the court for the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine basketball team.

Fresno State at Hawaii

When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE, Channel 5
Radio: Live, KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: All seats general admission. $8 adults, $7 seniors. UH students with ID, children age 4-18 free.
Parking: $3

She considered going to Arizona State, but her father, Wayne, did not think that would be a good idea.

"I have a sister living there, and he knew if I went to ASU I wouldn't go to school," said Toiaivao, who also did not want to go to a California school.

She and teammate Janevia Taylor made their recruiting visits to Hawaii the same weekend. Toiaivao signed her letter of intent before returning to Salt Lake City, where she was a senior at Brighton High School.

The 6-foot-4 center played across town at Hunter High School her first three seasons, where she twice was the team's most valuable player. However, toward the end of her junior year, she got a fighting violation, was expelled and finished her course work in summer school.

Except, she was one-quarter of a credit short in biology. That shortage was not discovered until she enrolled at UH.

"I found out I wasn't eligible right before Midnight Ohana (2003). I had my costume and everything and was so excited," Toiaivao said. "The coaches told me I couldn't take part. It was so hard.

"The deal was I had to pass 24 credits (last year) to be eligible this year. I actually got 25."

Toiaivao was disappointed she had to sit out her freshman season. But she never thought about leaving UH. She enjoyed her teammates, who became like a family far from home, and concentrated on her academics. She also stayed active playing pickup games with men.

"They did give me a workout. I liked it because I got to play point guard and didn't have to post up," said Toiaivao.

All that is behind Toiaivao, who is averaging almost 26 minutes in seven games this year, leads the Wahine in rebounding (56) and blocked shots (20) and is third in scoring (11.4 points per game) and assists (16).

"Alofa hasn't played in nearly two years, but the good thing is everyone is learning the system at the same time. It takes awhile to catch up after sitting out last year," UH coach Jim Bolla said.

Toiaivao, a center all through high school, says there are two parts of her game that need work. One is her blocking skills. She has a tendency to draw fouls doing this.

"It's different playing with college girls. They are tall and active and they know how to draw fouls," Toiaivao said. "The coaches want me to take a charge. I don't think I've ever taken a charge."

The coaches also want her to use her left hand more, something she is trying to do.

"I don't care if I start. I just want to play, to touch the ball, play defense. It may not look like I do, but I like to swat the ball. That is a good feeling," said Toiaivao.

"We're all trying to work and do what the coaches are teaching us. I'm comfortable with the way things are going now."

Bolla said, "When Alofa comes in (Brittany) Grice has already played 6 of 7 minutes and Alofa is fresh. That is to our advantage and it allows us to move Jade (Abele) out to the wing."

Toiaivao plans to major in family resources. She wants a career working with children.

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