Sports

Ka’u Alum Kailiawa Leads UHH WBK Recruiting Class

July 9, 2015, 5:57 PM HST
* Updated July 9, 6:00 PM
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Three years ago, Ka’u High School graduate Pua Kailiawa returned to her home state, leaving Umpqua Community College in Rosenberg, Ore. to finish her collegiate women’s basketball career at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Fast forward to the present, and Pua’s younger sister, Pilialoha, will also be leaving Umpqua to return to the islands, but she won’t be stopping on Oahu. Pili will finish her last two seasons at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo under coach David Kaneshiro.

“She’s a six-foot forward with good skill level and played well at Umpqua,” Kaneshiro said. “A really good student and a really good person as well, so we’re excited to have her back.”

Kailiawa played in 23 games last season for Umpqua, scoring just 1.09 points and 2.26 rebounds per game. She averaged less than 10 minutes per game.

“She brings sort of a different dimension that we haven’t had,” Kaneshiro said of how she fits in to the team. “Hayley Reynolds, McKenzie Mangino this past year, and even Danielle Kooyman to a certain extent, scored well for us, but they were more probably low post, maybe extend out to 15-17 feet, that was right in their wheelhouse, so to speak. Pili is a little different in terms of being able to step out maybe a little bit further to the three point line and be effective there.”

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The addition of Kailiawa highlights a seven-woman recruiting class for Kaneshiro, who is replacing eight seniors lost due to graduation. Not only is he replacing a core group of players, however. He is trying to fill a gap of 56.4 points per game scored among the eight graduated players. Last year, his team averaged 61.5 points per night.

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Kaneshiro’s returning class will be led by junior Alexa Jacobs, who averaged 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. No other returning player scored more than one point per game.

He will adding three guards to his roster, starting with Vanessa Mancera, last year’s Most Valuable Player of the California Community College Athletic Association and an All-State First Team selection in California. The point guard averaged 9.7 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.

Lauren Hong, a 5-foot-4 shooting guard, will join the Vulcans from Cypress Community College in Cypress, Calif. She was third on her team with 11.1 points per game and led the team with a 51.9 three-point shooting percentage, which was the best in school history.

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Wrapping up the list of guards to join the Vulcans for the 2015-2016 season is Kim Schmelz, an incoming freshman from Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, Calif. She scored 18.3 points and brought down 5.1 rebounds per game in her senior season.

Two additional frontcourt players who have some experience in playing with or against Kailiawa in the northwest will help round out the 2015-2016 recruiting class. Asia Smith played with Kailiawa at Umpqua and was supposed to transfer to Cal State San Marcos last season, but never played a game there.

Smith grabbed 461 rebounds in her two years at Umpqua, good for sixth on the school’s all-time list.

Also coming in is Sydney Mercer, who played two years at Columbia Basin College. She scored 14.59 points per game last season, brought down 6.44 rebounds per night, and shot 37 percent from beyond the arc.

Wrapping up the class is Patience Taylor, a graduate of Mira Costa High School in California.

UH-Hilo is coming off of a 10-14 season last year. The Vulcans are finalizing an agreement with the University of Hawai’i to play an exhibition game to open up the season. The first non-conference game is slated for Nov. 19 against Alaska-Anchorage at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, where all games will be played this season.

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