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Once so bad, HPU junior now becoming very good

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» Mana Hopkins-Vandenakker
» Hawaii Pacific basketball
» 5-10 junior forward

In most instances, Mana Hopkins-Vandenakker does things in a moment’s notice.

"I just like doing things spontaneously," the Hawaii Pacific junior forward said. "I’ll ask my friends, ‘What are we going to do today?’ and we’ll just go out and do it.

"One day, it’s ‘Let’s go hiking.’ One day, it’s ‘Let’s go roller-blading.’"

However, basketball wasn’t a spontaneous decision for the Konawaena High product. She began playing at age 12 when she was the tallest girl on the court by far.

"I was a giant out there," she said. "And I was so bad, they used to call me ‘Big For Nothing.’

"When you have people who are haters, it pushes you. It made me work even harder."

Now the challenge is to become consistent. She had a season-high 23 points in Friday’s 76-60 win over Saint Thomas Aquinas, nearly as many points as she had scored in the previous four games combined (24).

"I tend to have really good games, then really bad ones," Hopkins-Vandenakker said. "That’s what I need to work on, that and my outside shooting. I want to be a threat from the outside."

HPU coach Jeff Harada sees only potential.

"She was a raw talent coming out of high school," said Harada, whose team is 2-3. "Once she learns how to play the game at this level, she could become a very special player this year and next, not just in the conference but in the region.

"It’s still a process. We have 10 new players, and she’s still learning her role. She’s got great work ethic and is just a joy to be around."

"I do feel like it’s a new program with all of our new players," the psychology major said. "I don’t speak out that much. I try to lead by example.

"What I love the most about basketball is scoring. I love it when the crowd goes wild."

 

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