Basketball: Waiakea’s Imai takes Hawaii coach up on scholarship offer

  • RICK OGATA photo Waiakea senior Kelsie Imai got a surprise call Saturday from University of Hawaii women’s basketball coach Laura Beeman, who offered her a scholarship. After talking it over with her parents, she decided to commit to the Rainbow Wahine

The trip wasn’t quite complete when Kelsie Imai got the best news of her basketball life.

After playing with the Kona Stingrays in Oregon and Chicago, Imai and her teammates made a pit stop when University of Hawaii women’s basketball coach Laura Beeman rang her phone.

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“We just landed in (Los Angeles) on a layover from Chicago (on Saturday). We had an hour and she called me,” said Imai, who will be a senior at Waiakea this fall. “I think they talked to coach Bobbie Awa (Kona Stingrays, Konawaena High School) to get my number. She said, ‘Hey, this is Laura Beeman,’ and she offered me a scholarship. I was really surprised.”

Beeman and staff had seen Imai play in Oregon and Chicago, but there had been no contact with Imai to this point.

“Who really thought of all the girls, she would offer to me? To be honest, it’s a dream come true,” Imai said. “She said, ‘Are you interested?’ I said, ‘Of course, I’m interested.’ She said, ‘Is that a verbal?’ “

Imai sat down and talked with her parents, Kirk and Kelli. By Sunday, Imai was in touch with Beeman.

“I decided to commit. Originally, I wanted to go to the mainland, but after talking to her, I realized I was still going to get the college experience I want, and I won’t be homesick,” Imai said.

Imai, the reigning BIIF Division I Player of year, averaged 12 points per game to help Waiakea capture its first BIIF championship since 2008.

Waiakea is among the preseason contenders to challenge for the state title, this time under first-year Warriors coach Alika Smith.

Imai was still sorting out the speed and impact of a life decision.

“I’m excited. I talked to the assistant coaches. They’re really nice. I talked to Coach Beeman (Monday) and I still can’t believe it’s happening. And my family can watch me on TV and they can fly over if they want to,” she said.

The scholarship means Imai and her family won’t have to pay for partial or full tuition for a college education at a Division I university.

“It saves my parents a lot of money. I got offers from D-IIs and D-IIIs. I had some interest from UC San Diego,” said Imai.

Imai, at 5 feet, 6 inches, will continue to be a multi-position playmaker for Waiakea. At Hawaii, her role will likely be condensed as a point guard.

“I feel like I’ve always had different roles on different teams, and I always adjust, so I’ll be OK,” she said.

Summer isn’t over, of course. She will be at the UH women’s basketball camp Aug. 2-4. Then there will be an official visit later in August. Fall season means volleyball at Waiakea, and after basketball in the winter, there’s softball.

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For now, there’s just so much to absorb.

“It’s still sinking in.” Imai said.

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