Sports

Pana Stays Home to Play for UHH Women’s Hoops Program

June 14, 2014, 9:05 AM HST
* Updated June 15, 9:46 AM
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The University of Hawai`i at Hilo women’s basketball team has attracted a number of talented local players from across the Big Island to play collegiate basketball at home in the program’s short existence.

With Hilo-born Kamie Imai graduating after last season, another Hilo native will fill her spot on the roster, as Hilo High School graduate Aliyah Pana has signed her letter of intent to play for the Vulcans.

Faced with a choice between Pierce College in Washington and UH-Hilo, Pana faced a difficult decision. UH-Hilo’s offer of a full-ride scholarship helped in the decision, but the people close to her sealed the deal.

“I was really sad when I thought about going away,” Pana said, saying she thought about missing everyone, especially her family.

Pana scored 13 points per contest and grabbed seven rebounds per game in her final season, leading to a second selection to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Girls Basketball State Fab 15. The Vikings reached the semifinals of the Hawaiian Airlines/Hawai`i High School Athletic Association Girls Basketball Championships in the past two seasons.

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“She is a hard-working, versatile player with a good basketball IQ,” said UH-Hilo coach David Kaneshiro in a statement. “She is also a very good student and humble, generous person.  We look forward to working with her over the next four years.”

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Pana, named Gatorade Player of the Year following her junior season, hopes to settle into whatever role is asked of her by head coach David Kaneshiro. Her ability to not only handle the ball, but also work in the low post, could be valuable for the Vulcans.

“I think her ability to do different things certainly will help us as a team and will help her as an individual in terms of playing time,” Kaneshiro said.

“I think it’s gonna be a better experience to adjust while I’m at home,” said Pana.

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The biggest adjustment may be made in the stands, as her father, Ben, transitions from coach to spectator.

“I think it’s something new that I’ll have to adapt to,” Ben said. “We’re so vocal with each other, being on the same team, that now, just sitting down is something I’m going to have to get used to. I know that Coach Kaneshiro and his staff have their own strategy and it will be good to watch and try to control my own emotions. That will be the toughest thing for me.”

Other local players on the Vulcans’ roster include 2013 Kamehameha-Hawai`i graduate Chelsea Poe, fellow Viking Chelsea Santos, a 2010 Hilo alumnus, Konawaena graduate Thea Hanato-Smith, and Tricia Amuimuia, a sophomore out of Waiakea High.

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