HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Both the Men’s and Women’s UH basketball programs returned to the court this week, a long awaited reunion after the start of the pandemic cut their season’s short.
Wahine head coach Laura Beeman says that after all of the adversity her team has faced in that last year, being back on the court was a sigh of relief.
“We’re excited to be on the floor, it’s long overdue.” Coach Beeman told reporters before Friday’s practice. “These young ladies have been working really hard in a lot of different modifications and they have kept themselves tremendously optimistic.”
The Rainbow Wahine was the first athletic program to have a player test positive for COVID-19, a stark reminder that the team is taking to heart as they prepare for a season during the pandemic.
“It’s also hard being 18 to 22 years old not being able to rip and race a little bit, but i’ll tell you right now that this group is doing a fantastic job when they are out in the community, they’re wearing masks.” Coach Beeman said. “All i can say is they are doing a great job, they know what’s at stake here, they want to play, they want their season to go on and so they are on each other all of the time about keeping your mask on, you know you don’t know who other people have been around, but we want to play.”
Helping lead the way this season is the reigning Big West Conference Sixth Woman of the year Amy Atwell, who’s using last year’s abrupt ending as motivation going into the new season.
“Getting cut off in the middle of the tournament last year and how that really affected a lot of the returners, i think the incoming players really sense that emotion and that heartbreak because everyone had it affect them in some sort of way, so i think everybody has a sense of that.” Atwell said. " At the end of the day, we’re all here for a common goal and that’s to win a ring and bring a championship back, so i just think that everyone has the same mindset and it’s been pretty smooth sailing."
In the other gym, the Rainbow Warriors basketball team went into their second practice of the week, after a limited-contact practice on Wednesday.
Head Coach Eran Ganot says that after a long and uncertain path, the team was anxious to get back on the floor.
“I think our guys were fired up, there’s an excitement every year when you get back on campus, next big one is when you get back on the floor with the guys.” Coach Ganot told reporters before Friday’s practice. “I know this journey has been strange, it’s been different, were not where a normal practice would be, but the reality is it is still first practices and there was a little bit more contact allowed, so it was a step in the right direction and you could feel how energized they were to just compete a little bit more, not were we want or where we need to be but more than we had had.”
The 'Bows will have to remain diligent in mitigating any potential exposure to the virus, something Senior and Kahuku graduate Samuta Avea says won’t be a problem when they remember the opportunity at hand.
“Just like everybody, it’s somewhat of a hassle to keep the mask on, but we’ve got to think about the bigger picture all the time and remind ourselves how thankful we are to be back in the gym, back playing the game we love.” Avea said. “So little things like that shouldn’t compromise what we really want to do, so just preaching that message and keeping perspective within the team is really important.”
Last month, the NCAA announced a November 25th start date for the 2020-21 Division I basketball season, with no word on what either team’s schedule will look like.