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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 11, 2001

Wahine welcome four newcomers

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Basketball fanatics relish the first day of college practice. Wahine basketball players in Manoa find the day before more exhilarating.

 •  UH's Midnight 'Ohana

• Where: Stan Sheriff Arena

• When: Tomorrow, team introductions at 11:45 p.m.

• Tickets: General admission is free. VIP seating $25. Call 956-6501 for information.

That would be today, when more than five weeks of 6 a.m. runs, individual workouts and 4 p.m. dates with weights basically end. The 2001-02 University of Hawai'i Wahine debut tomorrow at the Coors Light Midnight 'Ohana, which starts after the UH-UTEP volleyball match ends at Stan Sheriff Center.

Basketball introductions will be at 11:45 p.m. The Wahine will also be involved in a 3-point shootout against the Rainbows. The men will then have a slam-dunk contest and intrasquad scrimmage.

Coach Vince Goo's 15th Wahine team features four new faces from diverse places:

• Jade Abele, a 6-foot-1 freshman forward, came here in January from Australia's Gold Coast.;

• Milia Macfarlane, a 5-5 point guard, walked down Wilder Ave. from Punahou, where she was a four-year starter in basketball and the state volleyball Player of the Year;

• Arijana Sijercic, a 6-2 junior post, came from Sarajevo, Bosnia, via New Mexico Junior College;

• Chelsea Wagner, a 5-10 wing, was Oregon's State Player of the Year as a senior, averaging more than 20 points and eight rebounds for Springfield High School.

Starters Janka Gabrielova, Christen Roper and April Atuaia return, but the Wahine lost half their rebounding and nearly two-thirds of their scoring when Crystal Lee, Dainora Puida and Kylie Galloway used up their eligibility.

The new faces have to help fill the void. Goo says Abele, who trained with the team last semester, looks like the most likely to make an early impact. She got a jump start on learning the system, and has the perimeter shooting and ballhandling skills to create problems for big defenders.

Goo's most compelling concern is her defense. Same with Abele, who was also an all-state netball player growing up. She knows precisely where she needs work, and what Aussie she needs to imitate.

"I'm trying to get more of Kylie's game into my style of play — the inside game, so I can be more of a threat on offense and more tough with big players on defense," Abele says. "Kylie's got a lot more guts than me. Rope (Roper) and Tasja (Allen) give me a bit in practice. Hopefully, when we start playing, I can give it back to them."

Goo says point guard is his deepest position. By the end of last season, which ended with UH 26-8 and in the WNIT semifinals, Gabrielova had fine-tuned her frantic game. Backup Michelle Gabriel closed the gap this summer. Macfarlane is the best perimeter shooter of the three — and maybe the team. Goo also saw strong ballhandling and exceptional court vision and quickness when he was recruiting Punahou's Female Athlete of the Year.

"But experience is another thing," he says. "She'll be where we want her to be quickly."

Macfarlane hopes so: "It's coming, truly, but I have lots to work on. I'm a prime example of what a freshman really is. My role now is simply learning, and being able to push myself by following the examples of others.

"I won't be disappointed no matter what, unless I completely give up — which will never happen."

Wagner (18) and Sijercic (23) are at opposite ends of the Wahine age spectrum, but share a recent history of medical problems that have set them back. Goo says Wagner has the skills to be another Crystal Lee — "but she needs to learn the whole package" — and he recruited Sijercic for her affinity for aggression.

Both acknowledge their goals have little to do with field goals.

"Since I'm the oldest one on the court," Sijercic says, "I really, really want to help the team more than I help myself."

Adds Wagner: "I don't want people to remember me. I want them to remember that I was part of a good team."

The Wahine open their season Nov. 17-18 in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Classic.