Wall rides out storm to impact Middlebury
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
After graduating from 'Iolani School in 2006, Alana Wall knew she wanted to go away for college "to gain a further appreciation for Hawai'i."
At 17, she was wise beyond her years, and after four years at Middlebury College in Vermont, Wall is set to graduate in May with a degree in American studies. She has already been accepted into the executive development program in buying and planning for Macy's and Bloomingdale's in New York City.
And somewhere in the middle of it, she finds time to play basketball.
Wall, 5-foot-10 guard, joined the Panthers as a freshman.
"She didn't play very much as a freshman; there were a lot of adjustments to be made," Middlebury coach Noreen Pecsok said. "One of the big concerns we had was aggressiveness. She's such a nice kid, we sort of wondered if she was aggressive enough to play here ... she just seemed almost too nice to do this."
There came a point in Wall's first year that Pecsok feared the worst.
"We had a snowstorm that winter and we got 32 inches of snow," Pecsok said. "I remember thinking, 'This poor kid, she's not going to come back.' "
Wall — despite being more than 5,500 miles away from home — said there was no reason to leave.
"The first winter was hard and I still think that I haven't completely adjusted to the cold, but it's one of those things that I don't mind and I've accepted," Wall said. "There were definitely times like that snowstorm that you have to wonder, 'Why am I here?' but I think that certain differences — like weather or even homesickness — I just didn't see it as enough of a reason to not stick it out."
It is that same perseverance that has helped Wall improve on the basketball court. Pecsok said getting a taste of competition as a junior made Wall more determined.
"I think it happened near the end of her sophomore year but certainly last year, when she got to play some minutes," Pecsok said. "Once she got on the floor and got to play some minutes, she never wanted to give them back. It's like the light went off for her that, 'I really can do it.' "
During preseason training in the fall, the senior leadership for Middlebury was forced to take the reins.
"It was a really unique situation, where we didn't have any juniors for the fall because two of them were abroad and not coming back until Jan. 3, so it was just the seniors and the rest of the underclassmen for preseason and the first part of our season," Wall said. "That really made our captain and other seniors realize that we needed to do everything we could to bring the team together. We had to show the underclassmen what the team means to us and what we expected from them."
It didn't all go as planned for Wall, who missed much of the preseason while healing from an ankle injury.
"I sprained my ankle early in the fall and it bothered me for two and a half months," said Wall, who also suffers from swelling in both knees. "There's pain when I run on it and it's not getting better, so I've been spending a lot of time in the training room. In a lot of ways, I think having the injury early on this year really forced me to think about what I wanted from the season and I wanted to impact the team on and off the court. It made me find other ways to contribute."
Her resolve has allowed her to start 19 of Middlebury's 21 games this season, while averaging 5.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. She also is among the team leaders in steals (26) and free-throw percentage (.750).
"One of the great things about having kids for four years is watching them mature and the growth that they undergo from beginning to end," Pecsok said. "To be here now and watch Alana take care of the younger players, do and say the right things to kids who that are in the same position that she was, it's very rewarding. I'm really impressed with how she handles it. She's completely selfless."
Wall said she will treasure her time at Middlebury.
"I know that it's not common for kids from Hawai'i to even fathom looking at a school in Vermont, but I think that for me it was definitely rewarding," she said. "I could have left after that snowstorm, but I got the sense that everyone around me knew that this was a special place and there were times when I was thinking about home and warm weather, but I tried to remember that not everyone has the privilege of playing college basketball or the opportunity to go to such a great school."
MORE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
• UNLV sophomore forward Jamie Smith ('Iolani '08 of Kailua) had 12 rebounds, seven points, two assists and one steal while playing all 40 minutes in a 76-60 loss at BYU Saturday.
• Idaho sophomore guard Shaena Kuehu (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) scored 12 points and had eight rebounds with two assists and two steals in a 61-53 win over Nevada last Wednesday. Freshman guard Kanisha Bello (Waiākea '09 of Hilo) added six points, three rebounds, one assist and a steal for the Vandals.
• Cal State Northridge freshman forward Violet Alama (Kalani '09 of Honolulu) scored a career-high 15 points and grabbed five rebounds with two assists in an 86-67 loss to Long Beach State Saturday. Junior forward Analee Viena-Lota (Kamehameha '07 of Honolulu) had eight points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals, and freshman guard Janelle Nomura (Punahou '09 of Honolulu) added four points, three assists, two rebounds and a steal for the Matadors.
• Concordia (Calif.) junior guard Nicole Fu (Maryknoll '07 of Honolulu) scored a game-high 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting, including 7 of 12 from 3-point range, in yesterday's 74-68 loss to The Master's College. She had 17 points and four assists in a 72-71 loss to Westmont (Calif.) Thursday.
• Willamette (Ore.) junior forward Keilyn Fujioka ('Iolani '07 of Kailua) scored 14 points with five rebounds, three blocks and an assist in a 93-59 loss at Linfield (Ore.) Saturday.
• Linfield (Ore.) senior guard Cody Tesoro (Baldwin '05 of Kahului) scored a team-high 19 points with six rebounds and three assists in a 79-64 loss to Lewis & Clark (Ore.). In a 105-93 loss to Willamette (Ore.) Saturday, Tesoro was 12-of-24 from the field, including 8-of-12 on 3-pointers, to finish with a game-high 36 points. Willamette (Ore.) sophomore forward Taylor Mounts ('Iolani '08 of Kailua) had 18 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two assists.
• Stanford senior setter Kawika Shoji ('Iolani '06 of Honolulu) had 47 assists, seven kills, six digs, two aces and two blocks in a four-set win over Pacific (Calif.) Wednesday. Sophomore outside hitter Brad Lawson ('Iolani '08 of Ho-nolulu) had 17 kills with six digs and two aces, and sophomore libero Erik Shoji (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) dug a match-high 18 balls for the Cardinal.
• USC junior setter Riley McKibbin (Punahou '07 of Honolulu) had 52 assists, eight digs and was in on four blocks in a five-set win over UC Santa Barbara Friday. Junior outside hitter Tri Bourne (Academy of the Pacific '07 of Honolulu) had 13 kills and 15 digs for the Trojans.
• BYU sophomore middle blocker Futi Tavana (Kaua'i '06 of Kalaheo) had eight kills on 11 attempts with no errors (.727 hitting percentage) and came up with two digs in a three-set loss to UC Irvine Friday.
INDOOR TRACK & FIELD
• Dartmouth freshman Joy Piotrowski (Punahou '09 of 'Aiea) placed fourth in the triple jump with a leap of 35 feet, 9 1/4; inches in a Saturday's Dartmouth Indoor Class. She also finished ninth in the long jump with a mark of 16 feet, 1/2 inch.
• Northern State (Mary.) freshman Trevor Mau (Saint Louis '09 of Kāne'ohe) placed second in the long jump with a leap of 23 feet, 5 inches and fourth in the 55-meter dash in 6.67 seconds in a tri-meet Saturday.
• Arizona State sophomore Kahoku Palafox (Maryknoll '08 of Kailua) had a score of 9.825 on the balance beam and 9.775 in the uneven bars in a dual meet against Utah Friday.
• Northern Colorado football player Mason Puckett ('Aiea '09 of Mililani) was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic Team for the fall. Puckett, a freshman kicker, averaged 62.9 yards on 41 kickoffs last season.Advertiser staff writer Stanley Lee contributed to this report.