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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Water polo's Nishioka and basketball's Puida honored

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Roosevelt graduate Andrea Nishioka came to the University of Hawai'i to be part of its inaugural water polo team four years ago. Kudirkos Naumiestis graduate Nerijus Puida came to Manoa from Lithuania, via Weatherford Junior College, to find hoops heaven.

Andrea Nishioka and Nerijus Puida were cited for academic and athletic excellence, and community service.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Yesterday they stood together as winners of the 2001 Jack Bonham Award, the athletic department's most prestigious honor.

"It feels good because you put so much work in school and basketball, and you are honored for that," said Puida, whose unselfish play helped the Rainbows reach the NCAA Tournament this season. "There are so many guys who probably deserved this as much as I did. I am very proud."

The awards were announced at yesterday's Scholar-Athlete Breakfast at Stan Sheriff Center. More than a quarter of the school's 450 student-athletes attended after qualifying for scholar-athlete status.

The Bonham Award is named after the late UH assistant athletic director and given annually to the senior female and male athletes who exhibit "academic and athletic excellence, character and community service."

UH-Hilo baseball coach Joey Estrella was the first recipient, in 1974. Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, Manoa's senior woman administrator, won it in 1976. Three years later, UH expanded the award, naming one female and one male winner. Other past recipients include Blane Gaison, Tita Ahuna, Judy Mosley, Angelica Ljungquist, Jason Olive and Shawn Ching.

Top Team Scholar-Athletes
 •  Carolyn Berger (track and cross country)
 •  Francisco Brignole (men's tennis)
 •  Jennifer Carey (women's volleyball)
 •  Scott Carlyle (men's golf)
 •  Laura De Lucia (women's golf)
 •  Stacy El-Hajj (water polo)
 •  Stacie Hirano (softball)
 •  Sarah Hitchcock (sailing)
 •  Anders Jonsson (men's swimming)
 •  Robynne Kamidoi (cheerleading)
 •  Dejan Miladinovic (men's volleyball)
 •  Lane O'Connor (men's basketball)
 •  Jennifer Oshita (women's tennis)
 •  Elizabeth Parkinson (women's swimming)
 •  Aaron Pribble (baseball)
 •  Christen Roper (women's basketball)
 •  Erin Schremser (soccer)
 •  Shawn Withy-Allen (football)
The last three female winners (Raylene Howard, BJ Itoman and Nani Cockett), and five of the last seven, were basketball players. Nishioka is the first water polo recipient and, this month, will be the sport's first four-year graduate.

Her aunt, Roosevelt teacher Susan Nishioka, was the primary force in starting the sport at UH. Yesterday, Andrea thanked her for the opportunity, and "giving me the lowdown after every game."

"I think Andy helped keep the team together," Susan Nishioka said. "She is good about remaining neutral and keeping things in perspective.

"There are four categories for the award. She excels in every area."

Andrea has been the Wahine captain and starter at the crucial 2-meter position the past two seasons. In her four years, Hawai'i has gone 95-52 and never dropped out of the nation's Top 10. She will leave her name among the UH leaders in all major categories.

Nishioka has also been a Presidential Scholar and member of the conference's all-academic team the past three years, and Academic All-American twice. She earned a perfect 4.0 grade-point average last semester and will graduate in Kinesiology and Leisure Sciences.

Outside of school, Nishioka is a long-time volunteer at Manoa Recreation Center and has helped develop junior water polo programs in the state.

Puida, a senior wing player, started every game for the Rainbows since transferring — with wife and Wahine basketball player Dainora Puida — two years ago. He is the first basketball player to earn the men's honor since Jarinn Akana in 1994, and only the second overall.

Puida earned WAC All-Academic honors both years and was a District 7 Academic All-American this season. He holds a 3.8 GPA in international business and marketing and plans to graduate next May.

Not bad for a guy who knew "zero English" four years ago.

"My mom and dad didn't want me to come to the United States," Puida recalled. "I promised them it wasn't just for basketball, I wanted to get my degree. I'm going to keep that promise."

Puida participated in "Work Hawai'i" last summer, supervising 40 children, and often speaks to local schools and community groups about the importance of education, drug, alcohol and violence prevention and character development.

The 123 scholar-athletes honored yesterday represent a 10-percent increase over last year's total — a jump many trace to the fall 1999 opening of the Bob Nagatani Academic Center, an athletes-only facility. Student-athletes need a cumulative or two-semester GPA of 3.0 or higher to qualify as scholar-athletes; freshmen and transfer students need a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.