Willoughby makes jump to hoops team
By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer
|Kim Willoughby, front, and Christen Roper will be counted on to provide solid post play for the Rainbows.
Eugene Tanner The Honolulu Advertiser
After leading the Hawai'i volleyball team to the final four, a bulked-up Willoughby yesterday joined the Hawai'i basketball team for the second consecutive season.
"I'm pretty excited getting back," said Willoughby, a two-time volleyball All-American, who arrived at practice one hour early to shoot free throws. "I told my mom she needs to feed me a lot more so I can get bigger and stronger for basketball."
Willoughby joins Hawai'i (6-3) just in time for the start of the Western Athletic Conference basketball season. If everything goes according to plan, her first game will be against WAC-opponent UTEP on Thursday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"We're going to see what she does in practice," Hawai'i coach Vince Goo said. "There's some new things that she's going to have to grasp. She will see some playing time if we think that she can get in there and help the ball club."
Willoughby, who is 6 feet and weighed 185 pounds during the volleyball season, said she prepared herself for the bump-and-grind basketball season by bulking up on her mother's cooking in Louisiana over the holidays, eating crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice.
"You name it, whatever I can't get in Hawai'i, that's what she was feeding me," said Willoughby, who now weighs "185 plus" and will be a reserve forward. "I know how much I can help the team. That's why I'm putting in the extra time. It's already conference (season). I need to build up my game, just to help these guys out, because they've been playing so hard."
Willoughby is a sophomore in basketball and will have two more seasons of eligibility after this season. She said she wants to graduate and complete her basketball eligibility, but added next spring she will try out for the Olympic volleyball team.
"Hopefully I'll get to play my two (remaining basketball) years," Willoughby said. "I don't know how it's going to work out with Vince. There's a lot of things that come into play. Hopefully it works out."
That didn't matter to Willoughby's teammates. Yesterday, they had more important things to do, such as joking about her long, baggy shorts.
"She's a basketball player now, not a volleyball player," Hawai'i point guard Michelle Gabriel said. "She can't be wearing those small little tight things they wear (in volleyball). She has to be a 'baller.' "
Added teammate Jade Abele: "We're excited to get her back. Hopefully she remembers all the stuff from last year. She's very athletic so it won't take her long to get back in the running."
During jumping tests, Willoughby said she touched 10 feet, 1 inch from a standing position and 10 feet, 4 inches from a running start. In pressure situations, she can jump even higher, she said.
Despite coming fresh off volleyball, Willoughby said she'll need to get into basketball running shape. In volleyball, players get to rest about eight seconds between points, but in basketball there's no rest for several minutes sometimes, she said.
Last season, Willoughby played in 23 games and averaged 6.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, which was the best among reserve players. She posted double-double performances against San Jose State (16 points, 15 rebounds) and Louisiana Tech (12 points, 12 rebounds).
At Assumption High School in Napoleonville, La., Willoughby scored more than 2,000 points and was named to the all-state team four times and twice earned Louisiana Player of the Year accolades.
This season, Willoughby helped lead the Hawai'i volleyball team to the final four for the first time since 2000. Hawai'i lost to eventual runner-up Stanford.
Tough preseason schedule: Hawai'i is ranked 35th with a strength of schedule of 30 by CollegeRPI.com. Hawai'i moved up from last week's ranking of 47th and strength of schedule of 62 despite going 1-1 in last weekend's Ala Moana Hotel Paradise Classic.
Hawai'i defeated Loyola Marymount, 56-51, but was defeated by 10th-ranked Texas Tech, 67-40. The Lady Raiders are ranked No. 1 by the ranking system with the second strongest schedule in the nation.
This season, Hawai'i beat UCLA of the Pac-10, Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference and UNLV of the Mountain West Conference. Hawai'i's three losses this season have been to nationally ranked Connecticut, North Carolina and Texas Tech.