Screw it. Megan Tinnin was there.
Basketball, and Hawaii, her whole college existence, shrank in the face of horrible reality. Her mother was dying in front of her eyes, and what used to mean everything seemed so distant.
Tinnin look a leave from UH last fall semester to take care of her ailing mother at home in Albuquerque, N.M., for the final month of Jamie Tinnin’s life. She died there on Oct. 2, 2009, at age 47 following a seven-year battle with breast and ovarian cancer.
Just a few months later, it was time for Megan, nearly the most prolific 3-point shooter in Rainbow Wahine history, to come back. But would she?
Hawaii had a new coach, new system, some new players. After such a trying personal situation, no one would have blamed the senior guard for staying away.
No one. Except Megan’s lifelong biggest fan, Jamie, wouldn’t allow it.
"The No. 1 thing was seriously my mom," Tinnin said. "She never taught me to give up. She never wanted me to stop doing what I love and following my dreams, and what I love is basketball. I still had an opportunity to come back, and so, was I just going to give up, and be upset, or was I going to deal with the situation at hand? I try to think, what would my mom do in this situation, and I know that I can’t just stop. I have to keep going on in life, and I know she’s watching me."
With most of her senior season still to play, UH guard Megan Tinnin already holds the Rainbow Wahine records for 3-pointers made and attempted across the board.
JAMIE WAS always watching, until it became no longer possible. She’d be in the stands for her three children’s games, even if there was a chemotherapy treatment session earlier that day. She even made it out for three UH home games during Megan’s junior year.
When Megan was in the New Mexico high school state championship game her senior year at St. Pius X, Jamie bought 500 plastic lei to hand out among the students to support her Hawaii-bound daughter. Megan was surprised when she saw the crowd — but only mildly so, as her mom did that kind of thing — and responded with 33 points in leading St. Pius to the title.
So four years later, when Megan got the call from her dad, Tom, to see if she’d break from school and come home for her mother’s last days, there was no hesitation. Megan needed to be there, just as her mom had always been for her.
New UH coach Dana Takahara-Dias understood, granting her time off with a "family first" motto, though the Wahine would miss her shooting, leadership and toughness.
Megan, then 21, took a few cues from hospice care workers, and took over as completely as in some of the 5-foot-10 guard’s best games at UH. At all hours, usually late ones, she was at her immobilized mother’s side, talking. Helping with medication. Whatever needed to be done that difficult final month.
"Megan never blinked, and was there the whole time," Tom Tinnin said. "Without her, I couldn’t have done it. … I knew she was a great gal and a wonderful daughter, but I didn’t know that she had the character that she displayed.
"She’s a very unselfish person."
Fittingly, the last time Jamie left the house was for a sporting event, a high school football game for Megan’s little brother Robbie. Megan drove her where they could see, and they sat in the car and watched together.
SINGLE-MINDED determination is what got her to Hawaii the first time as a Jim Bolla recruit. A gifted soccer player, Megan decided early in high school she wanted to play basketball instead. So she taught herself how to shoot, night after night in the backyard, until she had her calling card.
That same drive brought her back with Takahara-Dias. She returned to the team in January, but had to sit out the Western Athletic Conference season as part of her redshirt year. It was admittedly difficult, but she stuck through it and came back this fall in the best shape of her life.
"Stronger, if anything," said fellow co-captain Keisha Kanekoa. "Stronger person, stronger personality. A good head on her shoulders. She’s always had one, but after this situation I think she got tougher."
The UH career 3-point record, once seemingly destined to fall at her hand after consecutive single-season record years from beyond the arc, finally fell against Ole Miss on Nov. 27.
"I tried not to let it be the focus … but I’m very happy I was able to accomplish that," said Tinnin, also the team leader in steals for 4-4 Hawaii.
Megan’s younger sister, Courtney, and father were in the Stan Sheriff Center stands that night. Megan was recognized — during a timeout, no less — for surpassing Nani Cockett’s 128 career 3-pointers.
"That one was for Jamie. That one was for her mom," Takahara-Dias said. "She was smiling down in heaven on her when she broke it that night."
Megan wants to make it "untouchable" by the time her Wahine career is over. With averages of 8.6 points and 2.4 3s per game this season, she certainly could. Tinnin has 135 and counting.
Her next goal is already lined up: One day, she hopes to take over her parents’ self-made real estate business, Tinnin Enterprises. She will graduate in the spring with a degree in business.
But for now, Megan Tinnin is right where she wants to be, firing away.