Rainbow Wahine basketball: 4 seniors bid farewell

Outgoing Wahine basketball seniors, from left to right, Leah Salanoa, Tia Kanoa, Rachel Odumu and Lahni Salanoa. / Photo by Andrew Lee, Special to the Star-Advertiser

UPDATE: The Rainbow Wahine put together one of their best and most well-rounded performances in a 70-55 win over Fullerton.

As noted in Saturday’s print edition of the Star-Advertiser, senior night is a big night for the Hawaii women’s basketball team and its four outgoing players.

The Rainbow Wahine (11-15, 7-6 Big West) have a chance to redefine the 2018-19 season if they can put something solid together against Cal State Fullerton (13-13, 5-8) in this “White-out” game at 3 p.m., followed with a win or two on the road next week going into the Big West tournament. They’ll likely need two out of three wins to have a chance at fourth place and a bye into the second round.

Coach Laura Beeman still has concerns about team chemistry coming off the double whammy of losing Makenna Woodfolk last week followed by a couple of tough defeats. But she glowed about the senior class — Tia Kanoa, Rachel Odumu, and Lahni and Leah Salanoa.

The Salanoa twins played a part in UH’s Big West championship of 2015-16 their freshman seasons and have been a familiar presence in the years since. At their best, they’ve stretched the floor with deadly 3-point shooting and bolstered the front line with rebounding. Leah Salanoa stepped forward this season with her twin sidelined early with an injury, but Lahni’s been called upon to a greater degree of late with Woodfolk gone.

The two will likely both finish in the career top 10 in 3s made. Leah is already in with 96, while Lahni is 11th at 93. (They need 97 to both get in.)

“They’ve seen the program at it’s highest high and some lows,” Beeman said. “They’ve been through coaching changes and some players transferring out. Some great people transferring in. And never for a moment did I doubt their commitment to me, to Hawaii, to the program. They’ve been two young ladies that have been incredible to coach. Fun to watch their growth, fun to see them together, because they are one person, and then also together because they are two independent young women.”

As for Division I transfers Kanoa (Arizona State) and Odumu (Monmouth), the coach considers them as important a piece to the program as any player, including their mandatory redshirt year of 2016-17. Kanoa especially was integral from the moment she became eligible here and will likely depart as the program’s career assist-average leader. Odumu, an athletic defense-first guard with an eclectic personality, took a reduction in playing time in stride this season.

“It’s like they have been a part of this program for three years,” Beeman said. “You know, what they meant to this program coming in being transfer students from another program, and leaving for various reasons, I think one, it’s sharing their experience at a different institution and how playing here at Hawaii compares with that. And that Hawaii is special, and that this program is special.

“We do things different, we do things the right way. And when you only play for one program, you don’t really understand that. And Rachel and Tia were able to bring that past experience. And I think at times, that was really helpful, to the youngsters and their struggles being away from home. For the first time really being criticized and challenged. And it’s like that everywhere. So that was really important for what they brought to the program as individuals.”

Here’s something on each of the four seniors as they prepare to depart.

Tia Kanoa. / Photo by Andrew Lee, Special to the Star-Advertiser

Graduating: Spring 2019
Degree: Pacific Island Studies
Key stat: 5.0 career assist-per-game average, highest in program history
Next plans: Possibly play overseas or pursue masters in architecture to then apply with undergraduate degree
Memories of UH: “(Playing at home means) pretty much everything. From just the pride of being able to represent my family, represent where I come from, the support that I’ve gotten from the local fans — people who come and watch are really loyal too — and my family. That kind of support, you don’t get it a lot of other places. Really appreciative of those people.”

Rachel Odumu. / Photo by Andrew Lee, Special to the Star-Advertiser


Graduating: Summer 2019
Degree: Business
Next plans: Get masters degree while playing in Ireland or New Zealand, post-playing work in Silicon Valley
Key stat: 41.7 percent shooting as senior, up from 37.0 as junior
Memories of UH: “It’s been quite a journey. A lot of ups, a lot of downs. Coming all the way from Monmouth, it was a really huge transition for me, not only as a basketball player but as a person. And for the better. I grew a lot when I was at Monmouth, but I grew the most here at Hawaii under Coach B. She’s taught me how to be a really cool person, a really cool human. But I also bought into who I am as a basketball player, and I’m a very good defender. I’ve just embodied that here, and I’m glad that I have done that.”

Leah Salanoa. / Photo by Andrew Lee, Special to the Star-Advertiser


Graduating: Spring 2019
Degree: Sociology
Next plans: Play overseas after Pacific Games in American Samoa in July with sister
Key stat: 33 of 96 career 3-pointers made came this season, at 39.8 percent clip
Memories of UH: “Definitely an amazing experience with my sister. I don’t know how I’d do it without her, knowing how much she had my back growing over the past few years, and knowing how much I had hers. We wouldn’t know what to do without each other. Definitely cool having her here, having the good memories and having fun during games. Even bumping heads. But it’s all worth it at the end. It’s all really fun. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t play with her after this.”

Lahni Salanoa. / Photo by Andrew Lee, Special to the Star-Advertiser


Graduating: Spring 2019
Degree: Human Development/Family Studies
Next plans: Play overseas, and post-basketball career work with foster kids
Key stat: 47 3-pointers made as a junior ranks No. 7 in UH single season
Memories of UH: “We have a lot of family here, locally. … Hopefully more than 20 (coming today). We’ll see who comes. (When we first got here, them being here) helped us out a lot. We knew we had each other, too, but we knew we had family here so they kind of made us comfortable here the first year. … I think the main thing I’ll remember is the friendships I made here, with the girls and other friends as well. I think that’ll be the main thing that’ll stick out, if I look back in 10 years.”


Tia Kanoa posed for a stylish shot. / Photo by Andrew Lee, Special to the Star-Advertiser