Cubi-Otineru and Weber excelled as student-athletes
• Photo gallery: Jack Bonham Award
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
This year's University of Hawai'i's Jack Bonham Award winners come from Henfeld (Germany) and Hale'iwa. They play tennis and volleyball. One learned to study early and the other discovered that hard-earned art late — just in time.
That would be Aneli Cubi-Otineru, the Rainbow Wahine's charismatic captain in last fall's final-four season. For her volleyball skills, and maybe even more so for her academic transformation, Cubi-Otineru was given the Bonham Award at last night's Scholar-Athlete Dinner at Stan Sheriff Center.
Andreas Weber is the male Bonham winner, becoming the first men's tennis player since Dean Dunn-Rankin in 1980 to earn the honor, and only the second ever.
The award is named for the former UH assistant athletic director who died in a 1974 plane crash. The Bonham Award is given annually to the top female and male senior student-athlete who "best exemplifies the ideals for which Jack Bonham stood for in the areas of athletic excellence, academic achievement, public service, leadership and character."
The dinner also honored 180 student-athletes who earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average.
Cubi-Otineru and Weber represented every one of them. Cubi-Otineru, a 2005 Punahou graduate, lost much of her high school senior season to academic problems and didn't qualify for Mānoa initially. She went to Southern Idaho and earned a national junior college championship, her AA degree and UH coach Dave Shoji's trust with an astonishing academic makeover.
"I certainly had my doubts about her the first year she was away," Shoji recalled. "Then, after her first academic year when she was on track to graduate it encouraged me to stay with her.
"Everything she told me in high school you kind of doubted because her performance didn't back up what she was telling me. Everything she did in junior college she backed it up. Somewhere in there, there was a huge transformation."
Not in the way she played volleyball. She has seemingly always had those great instincts and exceptional talent in every phase of the game. Her competitive nature is relentless, even when she is at her nurturing best. Cubi-Otineru, voted "Most Fun to Watch" and "Best Player Per Inch" in an informal Western Athletic Conference poll, brought her hitting percentage up 50 points each season at UH, which went 90-13 in her three-year career.
A few weeks after the Rainbows' season ended against eventual national champion Penn State in the final four, Cubi-Otineru was playing professionally in Puerto Rico. Then the U.S. national team brought her in to train and asked her to stay for the summer. She declined, deciding instead to return to Hawai'i and her close-knit family, which helped her through her early academic struggles.
Cubi-Otineru graduated in December. It was a four-year journey that is both rare these days and rather shocking based on what she went through at Punahou.
"Everything happens for a reason," Cubi-Otineru says of her scholastic adventure. "You can either make the mistake and fix it or you can just say I made the mistake and I can't do anything about it. It's a lesson to be learned. It was just trusting in God and looking at the bigger picture. I messed up so it was my responsibility to take care of business."
In stark contrast, Weber's academic credentials have always been impeccable. The number that are most pertinent are 3.66 — his cumulative GPA — and 51-16 — his record playing Nos. 1, 2 and 3 for the 'Bows.
It is no coincidence that Hawai'i tennis has soared to new heights during Weber's career. He held the program's highest national ranking and was here for its only two WAC championships (2008 and '09); the 'Bows won their first regular-season WAC title Sunday. He also clinched the 'Bows' only NCAA tournament victory, winning in three sets against 20th-ranked Oklahoma State last year.
"I told Andy after the second set, 'You win, we win,' " UH coach John Nelson recalled. "He said, 'I'll win.' "
Weber is the second straight German to win a Bonham, after track's Annett Wichmann. Like Wichmann, Weber is remarkably versatile, overwhelming academics and opponents with equal aplomb. Like Cubi-Otineru, he plans to return home. Weber will fulfill his one-year military obligation in Germany then go for a masters degree or follow in his father's footsteps and become a detective.
Last night, he celebrated an honor he called "shocking."
"I've been to these dinners before and I saw Colt Brennan winning it and the guy last year (Solomon Elimimian), he entered the (NFL) draft, too," Weber said. "It's such a big honor for me. It's just incredible. I still can't believe it."
2010 TOP TEAMSCHOLAR-ATHLETES
Baseball—Russell Doi. Men's Basketball—Ji Xiang. Women's Basketball—Rebecca Dew. Cheerleading—David Gilles. Cross Country/Track & Field—Mariana Monasi and Natalija Waldhuber. Football—Kealoha Pilares. Men's Golf—Kamden Brakel. Women's Golf—Erin Matsuoka. Sailing—Amanda Gorman. Soccer—Kelsie Look. Softball—Kelly Majam. Swimming/Diving—Stephen Allnutt and Daniella Nero. Men's Tennis—Andreas Weber. Women's Tennis—Natasha Zorec. Men's Volleyball—Nejc Zemljak. Women's Volleyball—Stephanie Brandt. Water Polo—Annah-Vaile Blanton.
JACK BONHAM AWARD WINNERS
Year: Female and male winners and their sport
2010: Aneli Cubi-Otineru (volleyball) and Andreas Weber (tennis). 2009: Annett Wichmann (track & field) and Solomon Elimimian (football). 2008: Kate Robinson (softball) and Colt Brennan (football). 2007: Brittany Grice (bkb)/Kanoe Kamana'o (vb) and Mark Rodrigues (baseball). 2006: Allie Rowe (golf) and Alfee Reft (volleyball).
2005: Jennifer Warnock (sailing) and Chad Owens (football). 2004: Melissa Villaroman (volleyball) and Michael Kuebler (basketball). 2003: Kate Judd (softball) and Costas Theocharidas (volleyball). 2002: Molly O'Bryan (sailing) and Predrag Savovic (basketball). 2001: Andrea Nishioka (water polo) and Nerijus Puida (basketball).
2000: Raylene Howard (basketball) and Dan Robinson (football). 1999: BJ Itoman (basketball) and Michael Dartt (baseball). 1998: Nani Cockett (basketball) and Naveh Milo (volleyball). 1997: Angelica Ljungquist (volleyball) and Carlton Oswalt (football). 1996: Tania Brunton (basketball) and Clint Kuboyama (football).
1995: Brandi Brooks (volleyball) and Jason Olive (volleyball). 1994: Melanie Azama (basketball) and Jarinn Akana (basketball). 1993: Danelle Haia (softball) and Travis Sims (football). 1992: Heidi McElhanney (swimming) and Shawn Ching (football). 1991: Patti Su'a (softball) and Dane McArthur (football).
1990: Judy Mosley (basketball) and Jeff Ball (baseball). 1989: Sandra Budd (swimming) and Amosa Amosa (football).1988: Reydan Ahuna (volleyball) and Guy Farrow (swimming). 1987: Susan McDaniel (diving), no male. 1986: Susan Hlavenka (volleyball) and Michael Beazley (football).
1985: Andrea Hawcridge (swimming) and Joe Lileikis (swimming). 1984: Rose Thomas (tennis), no male. 1983: Joy Minaai (tennis) and Larry Goeas (football). 1982: Gillian Cooper (tennis) and Brandan Kop (golf). 1981: No female, Blane Gaison (football).
1980: Bonnie Gouveia (volleyball) and Dean Dunn-Rankin (tennis). 1979: Jane Zukaitis (tennis) and Ron Nomura (baseball). *1978: Harris Matsushima (football). 1977: Gerald Ako (baseball) and Alex Kaloi (football). 1976: Marilyn Moniz (volleyball). 1975: Gene Caranza (gymnastics). 1974: Joey Estrella (baseball).
* Only one award was given the first five years