Small change for Rainbow Wahine
By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Brandon Masuoka
Thrilled is how University of Hawai'i guard Saundra Cariaga felt when she learned of her first college start against visiting Texas Tech today.
Her parents' reaction? That's yet to be seen.
Cariaga said she wants to surprise her parents, Jamie Whaley and Nathan Cariaga of Kamuela, with news of her starting assignment.
"They're coming this weekend," said the 5-foot-9 junior from Kealakehe High School. "I think they're going to be surprised because they have never seen me start. I'm pretty excited. I just want to contribute to the team as much as I can."
Cariaga will get her chance in the three-day Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic that features No. 2 North Carolina and No. 23 UCLA. Also in the tournament are Arkansas, Denver, Gonzaga and Sacramento State.
Hawai'i is aiming for its first Classic title since 1999.
Cariaga was selected Tuesday by Hawai'i coach Jim Bolla for her height, quickness and steady improvement to play one of the two wing positions. Senior co-captain Pam Tambini will play the other wing.
"It was at practice when Coach Bolla called out the first group," said Cariaga, who is averaging 3.0 points and 1.5 rebounds per game this season. "He called out my name and I was like, 'Wow!' But I'm prepared. I'm ready to play. I've been wanting this since I first came here. Now that it's finally happened, I want to continue to work hard and progress."
Cariaga is part of a new lineup unveiled by Bolla this week. Former wing Janevia Taylor will return to point guard to stabilize the position. In two games this season, Hawai'i has used five players at the point. Amy Kotani and Cassidy Chretien will back up Taylor, Bolla said.
"I don't feel like I've moved that much," said Taylor, who is the team's second leading scorer at 11.5 points per game. "I still handled the ball majority of the time. It's not a big change to me. I think I have to get out of certain habits like busting out to the wings. ... As long as we win, I'm absolutely fine with anything. I look forward to it."
Senior center and co-captain Brittany Grice said she believes Taylor, who is nicknamed Nevi, and Cariaga will thrive in their roles. Grice and Tanya Smith will be the starting post players for Hawai'i.
"Nevi is a talented player, and she'll be strong regardless on what position she plays," Grice said. "She's arguably the best ballhander on our team.
"Saundra is our most athletic player," Grice added. "Ultimately, this will make our team faster. It will definitely be a defensive surprise for the other teams."
Hawai'i's first-round opponent, Texas Tech, features five projected starters 5 feet 10 or taller with guards Jordan Murphree (6-feet), Brooke Baughman (5-10) and Chesley Dabbs (6-0), center Erin Myrick (6-3) and forward Alesha Robertson (6-0). They also have 6-6 reserve center Patrice Edwards.
"They'll be bigger than us initially at the beginning," Bolla said. "After that, it will be a chess match on what combinations work best."
Baughman leads the team in scoring with 15.0 points per game, while the other starters average 10.3 points or better. Robertson and Myrick average 10.0 rebounds per game.
"They're real balanced," Bolla said. "On paper, it should be a really good contest."
Reach Brandon Masuoka at firstname.lastname@example.org.