POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 12, 2010
They didn't make it the first couple of times.
Hawaii women's basketball coach Dana Takahara-Dias, clearly incensed at her team's failure to complete a timed end-to-end sprinting drill, decided on a change of pace. The second-year coach left it up to her winded players whether to attempt the run again.
Of course, there was really no choice. The Rainbow Wahine conferred for a moment, then doggedly lined up. Then the team -- including all nine tryout players -- cleared it.
Strength and conditioning were points of emphasis for the Wahine, who posted some bright spots last season, but otherwise took their lumps with a 10-20 record en route to eighth place in the Western Athletic Conference.
Thus, UH made sure it took advantage of the new NCAA rule that women's basketball teams can start official practices 40 days before their first regular-season game. In UH's case, Nov. 19 vs. Cal State Northridge.
"I can honestly say with strong conviction that our players have come prepared this season," said Takahara-Dias, who pointed out that all the returnees stayed in Hawaii for part or all of the summer to train. "Physically, as well as strength-wise and conditioning-wise, they are way ahead of the game like no other year I have seen. They're giving us a real fighting chance from the get-go to put something really fun and special together."
Senior guards Keisha Kanekoa and Megan Tinnin helped set the tone with grit at the first practice on Sunday.
"I think we're ready. Personally, I think I'm ready," Tinnin said. "To be honest with you, out of my five years here, the preseason strength and conditioning was the hardest. So I think we were all prepared for it. She is a running coach. We definitely did a lot of running."
Key losses from Takahara-Dias' inaugural team were Dita Liepkalne, who graduated, and shooting guard Leilani Galdones, who is no longer in school.
All told, however, UH is adding a lot.
Shawna Kuehu, who led the team in points per game (12.6) in five contests as a freshman, is working her way back from a season-ending ACL injury, and should be ready by the season opener. Tinnin also redshirted last year after taking a leave from the team for a semester, and can break the UH record in career 3-pointers made with just 13 more.
There are four newcomers on scholarship -- junior point guard Keianna Evans, junior forward Carlotta Mingo, freshman point guard Sydney Haydel and freshman forward Kamilah Jackson.
"It was hard, it was tough, but I think we all got through it together," Haydel said of her first full Division I practice. "I was kind of prepared (for the running). ... I think everyone did well."
Takahara-Dias will decide today whether to add any of the nine tryouts to the roster.
Along with the UH men's team, the Wahine will perform skits and play in a celebrity game during the "UH Ohana Hoopfest" on Friday night, following Wahine volleyball vs. San Jose State.