UHH women’s basketball preview: Full steam ahead for Kaneshiro in 11th season

  • Head coach David Kaneshiro is returning to the court with the University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball team on Saturday.

Excited as he was, David Kaneshiro certainly didn’t think anything would come easy when he took over the 4-year-old women’s basketball program at his hometown university. The one that’s notable because its athletic department is the remotest in the country. Early on, his hard work paid off in the form of a pair of winning seasons and two consecutive PacWest playoff berths.

Kaneshiro now is one of the longer-tenured Vulcans’ coaches, but he enters his 11th season still two wins shy of his 100th victory, against 148 losses, and trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2014. It’s clear, however, that he remains comfortable in his skin.

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He’s seen them come and go – school chancellors, athletic directors, even men’s basketball coaches. GE Coleman was dismissed after the 2020 season, in part – AD Pat Guillen said – for failing to lead the Vulcans’ men’s team to the playoffs during his seven seasons.

Does Kaneshiro feel like he’s been put on notice?

“No,” he said. “I’m not getting up in the morning focused on that.”

Win or lose, his focal point will remain the same as the previous decade: the student-athlete experience.

“I’m focused on trying to help our players and help make the program better,” he said, sounding a lot like he son of a coach.

“My dad (Wayne) was my first coach, even through (Hilo High School) he was an assistant,” Kaneshiro said. “I watched him coach, he’s that example. That’s kind of the way I was taught. I played Division III hoops (at Beloit College in Wisconsin), where the emphasis was on student-athlete development in small college basketball.

“For better or worse, that’s who I am and that’s what I believe in.”

And the Vulcans have believed in him, especially as a program ambassador.

Guillen indicated a few years ago that an uptick in recruiting was necessary, and, coincidence or not, Kaneshiro delivered, bringing in players such as Allie Navarette (more on her elsewhere in this section) and Mikayla Tablit. Off the court, the program is usually a hit when it comes to undertaking the community service projects the athletic department likes to fulfill.

Kaneshiro will be hard-pressed to improve his win-loss record this season considering half the Vulcans’ games will come against Hawaii Pacific. The Sharks are the top-ranked team in the West Region and already own a win against UH-Manoa.

Does he feel like he’s been put on the spot?

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Hardly.

“I haven’t really thought about it as far as being half the schedule,” Kaneshiro said. “The competitive side, I’m excited about it. You get a chance to measure yourself against the best in the West.”

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