POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 01:45 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012
Scott Wong's shopping list at the end of last volleyball season was extensive. And that was just for indoors.
As the Rainbow Wahine's associate coach and primary recruiter, his assignment was to replace the top-ranked blocker in the country in 2010, a seasoned right-side hitter and the All-American who anchored Hawaii's offense, defense and passing for four years.
In his spare time, Wong was head coach of Hawaii's inaugural sand volleyball team in the spring semester, and celebrated daughter Elyse's first birthday.
"I feel five years older," the 1997 Punahou graduate jokes, with an exhausted smile.
He finished his shopping, setting the table with three transfers, Punahou graduate Tai Manu-Olevao and a few walk-ons. Wong's challenge now is to help head coach Dave Shoji develop this group, ranked eighth in the preseason, into a postseason force. They must figure out who will be on the court and when they are ready. Wong offers input on how they can enhance the flavor of the whole and what strategy will best burn opponents.
The difference in his third year is every one of these Wahine, with the exception of lone senior Emily Maeda, came here on his watch. He has done pretty much all the shopping.
"It's a different perspective," Wong says. "I know everybody's history at UH. I feel I connect better with them. There is no uncertainty in their experience. The kids we brought in I walked through the recruiting process and they know our expectations. That's a big change."
He is not a Shoji clone. They grew up in different generations, with different experiences, and cook up diverse tactics for their unique tastes. Ideally, all those differences create a winning team.
"We teach skills differently," Wong says. "If we all taught the same way I don't think the players would learn it as well. We have minute differences, based on the angle of how we see things. In the grand scheme, we have disagreements, but our philosophy is on the same page."
It has been good for 60 wins and four losses in Wong's two years back home in Manoa. This season, Wong wonders how all the inexperienced middle blockers will mature and who can be thrown on the grill to replace the "big personalities" of Kanani Danielson and Brittany Hewitt.
"How is the team going to interact?" he asks. "I think we are all excited about the new group, but when there's adversity, what is going to happen? Who is going to step up? Those are the questions we are all asking now.
"But for a group this big, it's amazing how well they get along."