Before enjoying a hearty Thanksgiving banquet, there will be work to be done on the holiday for the Rainbow Wahine basketball team.
The team has a two-hour practice scheduled for Thanksgiving morning, its last full workout in preparation for the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Shootout. The Wahine will later join the other three teams in town — North Carolina, Prairie View A&M and Stanford — at a banquet hosted by the tournament sponsor then spend some time with family and friends before opening a challenging three-day run.
“It’ll be really good just enjoying Thanksgiving with the rest of the team … and get ready for games Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” UH senior Shawna-Lei Kuehu said.
Several UH players have family members in town for the holiday and UH coach Laura Beeman’s parents will arrive on Friday for the weekend tournament.
“I’m just really thankful for family and good health,” Beeman said. “I feel very fortunate for the things I have in my life because a lot people don’t have what I have and I feel very thankful for that.”
The teams will work off their Thanksgiving meals once the tournament tips off at 2 p.m. Friday with No. 5 Stanford (3-1) taking on No. 11 North Carolina (4-0) at the Stan Sheriff Center. The Rainbow Wahine then face (3-1) Prairie View A&M (0-3) at 4:30.
While the Wahine have high-profile opponents ahead in Stanford on Saturday and UNC on Sunday, they know they can’t allow their focus to stray from Prairie View A&M, which has played in the last four NCAA tournaments as the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion.
“They’ve played some pretty stiff competition, they’re going through some transition as far as incoming and outgoing players,” Beeman said. “They have a really good guard who can do just about anything she wants. She can score from all three levels, 3-point, midrange, getting to the basket.
“They go to the (NCAA) tournament every year so they’re a team that has some history and tradition.”
The Panthers are led by 5-foot-7 senior guard Jeanette Jackson, who enters the tournament averaging 20.7 points and five assists per game. She scored 27 in a loss to Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 18 and hit for 24 in a 59-41 loss at No. 7 Texas A&M on Monday. Shaneece Stephens is second on the team with 6.3 points per game.
The Wahine enter the tournament coming off a split in last weekend’s Bank of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Classic in which they lost to No. 14 California 79-72 and beat UNLV 79-70 on Sunday.
“We really wanted Cal, we really did,” junior guard Destiny King said after the UNLV win. “But it was a great way to see where we were as a team and we know we can be great. We just need to be consistent about that, because we know we have a target on our back as coach tells us in the locker room all the time. We know coming into next weekend that it’s going to be hard but we can do it. If we can stay with the No. 14 team we can stay with a lot of other people.”
Stanford is making its second visit to Hawaii in three years at No. 5 in the Associated Press poll. The Cardinal ended Baylor’s 42-game winning streak in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in 2012 and snapped Connecticut’s 47-game streak on Nov. 17 at Maples Pavilion. Stanford elevated to No. 1 in the USA Today coaches poll after knocking off the Huskies but lost to No. 10 Texas at home last Thursday. The Cardinal edged New Mexico 70-65 on Monday before heading to Hawaii. Stanford was without leading scorer Lili Thompson (26 points per game) due to illness against the Lobos.
North Carolina posted home wins over UCLA and Oklahoma State at home and won at Oregon 76-59 on Sunday behind Stephanie Mavunga’s 23 points and 16 rebounds.
Stanford guard Guard Amber Orrange (15.3 points, four assists per game) and North Carolina guard Allisha Gray (19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds per game) were named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 30 on Monday.