The University of Hawai'i women's basketball team held their first official practice for the 2013-14 season on Tuesday afternoon. Last year in head coach Laura Beeman's first season, she and her staff turned around the Hawai'i program. They led the upstart Rainbow Wahine to its first winning record since the 2006-07 season and propelled the team to its first post-season appearance (WNIT) in 10 years. Hawai'i posted a 17-14 overall record and finished in a two-way Big West Conference tie for second place with Cal Poly at 13-5-which included an 8-1 home conference record. It marked UH's best conference record in 12 seasons.
The Rainbow Wahine return nine letterwinners and welcome five newcomers this year. Among the returnees are all-Big West first team post Kamilah Jackson (formerly Martin); BWC Sixth Player of the Year Shawna-Lei Kuehu; BWC Defensive Player of the Year Sydney Haydel (3.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 33 steals); and Ashleigh Karaitiana (8.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg) who made the Big West all-freshman team and earned honorable mention honors.
Jackson, a senior forward, leads UH into the 2013-14 season after becoming just the second player in Rainbow Wahine history to lead in both points and rebounds for the three seasons. UH great, Judy Mosley is the only player to ever lead UH all four years. Last year, Jackson recorded 469 total points for a 15.1 per game average to go with 303 total rebounds (127 offensive and 176 defensive) for a 9.8 per game average. She enters her final season with a career average of 13.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
Difference-maker guard/forward Kuehu returns for her senior season after leading UH with 26 blocked shots last year and was second on the team with 4.7 rebounds and third with 8.4 points. For her career, she is averaging 8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game with 105 assists and 87 steals.
UH welcomes five highly-touted newcomers to their squad, including two true freshmen-5-6 point guard Briana Harris (Inglewood, Calif./St. Monica Catholic HS) and 6-1 center Angelina Smith (Colorado Springs, Colo./Widefield HS); a redshirt sophomore-5-2 point guard Hi'ilei Balasco (Lahaina, Maui/BYU-Hawai'i); and two junior transfers from Mount San Antonio College-6-1 forward Shawlina Segovia (Riverside, Calif.) and 5-9 guard Morgan Mason (Los Angeles, Calif.). The third transfer from Mount SAC, 6-2 center Ashley Burchfield, will be joining the team after the first semester.
Fans will get their first chance to support this year's team when it hosts UH Hilo in an exhibition game on Oct. 30 at the Stan Sheriff Center. Hawai'i opens its season for the second straight year and seventh time in school history on the road with games at Arizona State (Nov. 9) and Northern Arizona (Nov. 10). The Rainbow Wahine return home the following week to host the Bank of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Classic from Nov. 15-17 with Washington State, Mississippi and West Virginia.