UHH women’s basketball preview: Mandi Kawaha comes at opponents in waves

  • Mandi Kawaha.

During an impromptu media day before a women’s basketball practice at UHH gym, two players are first to the court. Coach David Kaneshiro worked on post moves with Bree Olson on one end, while Mandi Kawaha performed a one-player layup drill at the other basket.

Kawaha took a break to have her photo taken, and sandwiched between an interview she returned to her solo layup line.

ADVERTISING


Dribble, drive, high-arching layup.

“Whenever I come in to practice, I grab a ball and start shooting, working on game situation like layups, trying to get that ball higher up,” Kawaha said.

The 5-foot-2 junior dynamo became accustomed to going up against taller players during an all-star career at Hilo High, but considering the relative lack of size she saw in BIIF girls basketball, the learning experience started anew once she reached the Division II level.

Kawaha may have stopped growing vertically as a 10th-grader, but her game appears to be in a perpetual state of maturation.

“I’ve definitely seen growth in her going up against taller players, and to her credit she’s learned situations to be aggressive,” Kaneshiro said. “Looking to score, but when it’s the right time finding an open teammate in the lane.

“I think it’s more decision-making than technique going up against bigger players. She’s quick. In the (UH-Manoa) game she was able to break her man off the dribble, and then it’s just a matter of if you have a lane to the basket, you have to finish, or if you draw help, finding the open man.”

A starter since she hit campus her freshman season, Kawaha was more of a finisher in the exhibition loss to Hawaii in December, scoring a game-high 23 points, but she also accomplished another goal, grabbing a team-high six rebounds for undersized UHH.

“We need to box out more, get under them, whatever, you just have to fight and push back, hold our base,” Kawaha said.

The team’s third-highest scorer (9.8 points per game) and leader in assists and steals last season, she and fellow BIIF alumni Mikayla Tablit (Konawaena) and Mindy Kawaha (Hilo) will handle the traditional point guard role.

“I think that’s my best game, penetrating and dishing outing out, so that’s why I think I have to step up more, attacking, drawing and kicking out and trusting my teammates,” Mandi Kawaha said.

Tablit was the more ballyhooed player coming out of high school after winning four state titles with the Wildcats before losing her freshman season to a knee injury. The 5-5 sophomore is looking to build off a debut campaign in which she averaged 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds a game.

“She’s got a year under her belt, that experience since the injury, and you just can’t measure that until you go through it,” Kaneshiro said. “She’s battled through and persevering and getting better every day. She is doing a good job.”

Mindy Kawaha, a 5-2 freshman and the younger sister of Mandi, didn’t play against Hawaii, but she’s done more than enough in her first preseason camp to catch her coach’s eye.

ADVERTISING


“Smart, plays hard like her older sister,” Kaneshiro said. “They play with physical toughness, so they don’t back down.”

Tablit was the more ballyhooed player coming out of high school after winning four state titles with the Wildcats before losing her freshman season to a knee injury. The 5-5 sophomore is looking to build off a debut campaign in which she averaged 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds a game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.