Local PacWest women get ball rolling
By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Kyle Sakamoto
Hawai'i Pacific women's basketball coach Liz O'Brien-Gorkowski has a lot on her to-do list.
She's a first-year head coach running a first-year collegiate program. And she's expecting her first child late next month.
O'Brien-Gorkowski and the Sea Warriors just returned from a season-opening road trip to California. The team went 0-4 and was outscored by an average of 82.5 to 49.3. The final two losses were by an average of 12.5 points.
"Every game we got better," O'Brien-Gorkowski said. "We started to see people step up."
O'Brien-Gorkowski and husband Justin, a captain in the U.S. Army, are expecting a daughter in late December. She isn't expecting to take much time off after giving birth.
"We have a little break (in the schedule) between Dec. 20 and Jan. 4, if she joins us then I can come right back (and coach)," she said.
The couple's daughter will be named Isabella Joy.
If O'Brien-Gorkowski misses any time she said assistant Lisa Russell will take over.
As for her team, the Sea Warriors came up with the motto: "On a mission to build tradition."
"We are looking for a team that pushes the ball down to floor, plays good defense, takes good shots and plays good team basketball," said O'Brien-Gorkowski, a former director of basketball operations for the University of Hawai'i women's program under Jim Bolla.
She said her main players are shooting guard Kelly Morey (5-8, jr.), combo guard Ashley Jenkins (5-8, jr.) and post player Shannon Miyashiro (5-10, fr.), a Roosevelt High alum.
O'Brien-Gorkowski said Morey "is a team player with a great jump shot and a great defender," while Jenkins and Miyashiro are invaluable because they can each play three positions.
The team practices at 5 a.m. at Radford High School. She said the players without cars are picked up by staff members at the dorms.
The Pacific West Conference added women's basketball, and men's and women's soccer this year to meet NCAA requirements. The PacWest is an NCAA Division II member comprised of four local schools and Grand Canyon (Ariz.) and Notre Dame de Namur (Calif.).
Latoya Wily enjoyed her two seasons at Alcorn State, a Division I program in Mississippi.
But the lure of coming back home and being a part of the Seasiders' first women's basketball team in history was too much to pass up.
Latoya Wily (Kahuku '04) is playing with younger sister Artevia Wily (Kahuku '06). They are coached by Wendy Anae, who also coached them at nearby Kahuku High School.
"It's the first women's basketball team they have," said Latoya, a junior who decided to transfer in early September. "Growing up in La'ie, everyone in the community has great pride in where they're from. I want to be an example to everyone below me. This is a chance of a lifetime. We'll be making history."
Latoya, a 6-0 forward/center, played in the NCAA tournament her freshman season at Alcorn State. The Braves lost to No. 1 seed Michigan State.
"I really loved it up there," Latoya said. "I wasn't homesick at all. The experience up there was great for me."
This stat didn't bode well for Chaminade even before the season started.
PacWest schools are allowed to offer a maximum of 10 tuition-only scholarships for women's basketball. The Silverswords are offering just one this season.
"We have obviously not the highest level of talent because of our late recruiting and lack of scholarships to offer," coach Cory O'Dell said.
"But we're coming together as a team. They are discovering who they are as individuals and as a team so it's been very encouraging to see."
O'Dell said he called all the junior college programs in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and 80 percent of the schools in California looking for players.
O'Dell said his main players are Marian Murphy (5-8, jr.), Simrin Cummins (5-9, jr.), Katherine Carlisle (5-8, jr.) and Sacred Hearts Academy alum Samantha Saito (5-3, fr.).
Brittnee Fonnesbeck (6-0, jr.) and Andrea Molina (5-6, so.), who also play volleyball for the Silverswords, are on the roster.
Hawai'i-Hilo won't play a home game until Jan. 11. That's 11 games into the season.
"What I expect to get is some solid fundamental basketball out of the kids this season," coach Daphne Honma said. "We're working on a lot of basics. We expect to play tough defense, execute on the offensive end and push the ball up the floor."
Honma said of the 10 eligible players, five are walk-ons. Eight of the players are from Hawai'i.
She added her main players are Amy Ka'aiakamanu (5-10, sr.), Chrystal Hodson (5-7, jr.), Krystlelyn Omlan (5-7, jr.) and Ashley Kualii (5-6, so.).
Ka'aiakamanu and Kualii are 2002 Waiakea graduates. Ka'aiakamanu played at Northeastern Junior College (Colo.) and Kualii played at Western New Mexico.
Haunani Liftee, who helped Konawaena to the state final in 2005, will backup Kualii at point guard.
"I'm hoping (Kualii) can groom Haunani at this level," Honma said.
Reach Kyle Sakamoto at firstname.lastname@example.org.