Vandals will feel right at home in Hawaii
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
When the University of Hawai'i women's basketball team returns to the court tonight against Idaho, it will be homecoming for more than just the Rainbow Wahine.
That's because the Vandals feature numerous Hawai'i connections, beginning with head coach Jon Newlee.
Newlee, the ninth head coach in Idaho history, spent three seasons (2000 to '02) on the Rainbow Wahine staff under former head coach Vince Goo.
"I have great memories of being here and working with Vince and the success that we had," Newlee said. "It's an awesome place and it's great to see old friends again and get a chance to compete in the Stan Sheriff Center."
Associate head coach Gavin Petersen, a University High and Hawai'i Pacific graduate, also coached at UH (2002 to '04) and is in his sixth season with Newlee.
The Vandals also feature three guards from the Islands — sophomore Shaena-Lyn Kuehu and freshmen Kanisha Bello and Natasha Helsham.
Kuehu, a 2008 Punahou graduate from Honolulu, was named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Freshmen Team last season after she led all first-year players in scoring (10.0 ppg), rebounding (5.3 rpg), field goal percentage (.396) and 3-point field goal percentage (.369). She scored double-digit points in 18 of the 28 games, including 14 of 16 WAC games.
"Offensively and defensively she's been great. She has come back really focused," Newlee said. "She's definitely one of our on-court leaders and she has played really well this year and keeps improving. I love coaching her, her attitude is fantastic and we're lucky to have her."
Kuehu has started 13 of Idaho's 14 games this season, averaging 11.3 points per game, which ranks second on the team. She also pulls down more than six rebounds a game and has a team-high 25 steals.
"My role is just to lead by example and to work hard," Kuehu said. "I think that's what all of us have to do is just work hard and play together and that's pretty much all it is."
The Vandals have been without senior wing Derisa Taleni, last season's WAC Newcomer of the Year, who suffered a knee injury in the preseason.
"We lost our best player before the season even started and that hurt us," Newlee said. "And we lost a starting post player, Jessica Graham. She blew her ACL about two weeks ago in practice, so essentially we're down to eight or nine players."
The injuries have meant more playing time for Bello and Helsham.
Bello, a 2009 Waiākea graduate from Hilo, has made 12 appearances with one start and is averaging 3.9 points in 15.7 minutes per game. Helsham, a 2009 'Aiea grad, has played in 11 games with four starts and is averaging 1.7 points and 1.6 assists per game.
"They've gotten some good minutes lately, but like any freshmen, both of them are up and down," Newlee said. "They both have got to learn how to work hard at this level every day in practice. The speed of the game is much different from what they're used to from high school and that's something that they're finally starting to get used to so I look for good things from them in the years to come."
Kuehu expressed disappointment that she won't get to play against her twin sister, Shawna-Lei, a freshman wing for UH. Shawna-Lei suffered a torn ACL earlier this season.
"I really wanted to play against her," Shaena said. "I don't think we've ever played against each other since we started playing basketball. It would have been a fun experience — can't happen now — but it's OK."
Kuehu said it was nice to get away from the frigid weather of Moscow, Idaho.
"It's freezing back there," she said. "My first thoughts when I got back home was, 'it's nice and warm,' and then I just wanted to see my family ... and eat Hawaiian food."
Kuehu said having the local contingent at Idaho helps being far from home.
"It's nice having Hawai'i people here," she said. "I think it's been an easy transition for us because we have each other."
Newlee hopes to keep the pipeline flowing.
"With the girls that we have now and with Gavin and my connections there, we think it's a nice thing we have going," Newlee said. "It's a great connection, which we want to keep going."
MORE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
• UNLV sophomore forward Jamie Smith ('Iolani '08 of Kailua) had 10 points and eight rebounds in a 71-61 loss to BYU last Wednesday. She had 10 rebounds and seven points in a 63-54 loss to New Mexico.
• Cal State Northridge freshman guard Janelle Nomura (Punahou '09 of Honolulu) scored 11 points with six rebounds and four assists in a 69-64 loss to UC Irvine Thursday. Junior forward Analee Viena-Lota (Kamehameha '07 of Honolulu) had four points, two rebounds and two assists and freshman forward Violet Alama (Kalani '09 of Honolulu) added two points and two rebounds.
• Utah freshman guard Iwalani Rodrigues (Kalani '08 of 'Ewa Beach) had 10 points, three rebounds and three steals in a 65-30 win over Utah Valley last Wednesday.
• Concordia (Calif.) junior guard Nicole Fu (Maryknoll '07 of Honolulu) scored 18 points in a 84-74 win over Cal Baptist Saturday. She was 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
• Willamette (Ore.) junior forward Keilyn Fujioka ('Iolani '07 of Kailua) scored a team-high 17 points and had nine rebounds in a 76-49 loss at Puget Sound Friday. She also had three blocks, two steals and two assists.
• Yavapai (Ariz.) sophomore forward Kira DeMorales (Waiākea '08 of Hilo) had 17 points and 14 rebounds in Thursday's 69-60 win over Douglas.
• Linfield (Ore.) senior guard Cody Tesoro (Baldwin '05 of Kahului) had 12 points, four rebounds and two assists in a 72-60 win over Lewis & Clark (Ore.) Friday. In a 94-85 win over Willamette (Ore.) Saturday, Tesoro scored a game-high 21 points. Willamette (Ore.) sophomore forward Taylor Mounts ('Iolani '08 of Kailua) had 11 points and eight rebounds.
SWIMMING & DIVING
• UCLA sophomore Brittany Beauchan (Punahou '08 of Kailua) won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:02.53 and 200 breaststroke in 2:13.95 in a meet against Fresno State and Kansas Friday. She also swam on the winning (1:44.04) 200 medley relay team.
• USC sophomore Christel Simms (Punahou '09 of Honolulu) swam the anchor leg of the 200-yard medley relay team, which won in a time of 1:44.28 in a dual meet against UC Santa Barbara Saturday. She also placed second (51.44) in the 100 freestyle and third (24.05) in the 50 freestyle.
• Northern Arizona junior Meredith Egloria (Kapolei '06) finished second (27.53) in the 50-meter freestyle in a meet against Idaho Saturday. She also helped the Lumberjacks to a runner-up finish (4:29.82) in the 400 medley relay and a first-place finish (1:48.02) in the 200 freestyle relay.
• Boise State freshman Jennifer Cahill (Baldwin '09 of Wailuku) placed second in the 1,000-yard freestyle in a school-record time of 10:18.16 in a meet against Tulane and San Diego State Thursday. She also placed second (5:02.90) in the 500 freestyle.
• Lindenwood (Mo.) sophomore Sarah Billamosa (Pearl City '08) swam the opening leg of the winning (1:44.98) 200-yard freestyle relay team in a meet against Washington University (Mo.) Friday. She also helped the Lions to a runner-up finish (1:55.33) in the 200 medley relay and placed third (2:20.97) in the 200 individual medley.
• Redlands (Calif.) senior Melanie Loo ('Iolani '06 of Waipahu) placed second (5:37.52) in the 500-yard freestyle in a meet against Cal Tech Saturday. Loo also was on the winning (1:56.90) 200 medley relay team.
• Dana (Neb.) senior Bulla Tuzon (Baldwin '06 of Wailuku) was named Wrestler of the Week by the Great Plains Athletic Conference last Wednesday. Tuzon, a 165-pounder, went 2-2 at the Ron Beeman/Dana College Open, including an upset of second-ranked Brad Lower of Grand View.