Wahine Gameday: Kennedy eager for home debut

Brianna Kennedy will face a familiar opponent in her debut at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The Rainbow Wahine center sat out last year after transferring at Loyola Marymount and will take the floor against the Lions in UH’s home opener today in the Bank of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Classic.

“I have a lot of good friends who still play for LMU, so it’ll be fun to play against them,” Kennedy said after Thursday’s practice at the Sheriff Center, “but also fun just to play in general since I redshirted last year.”

UH (2-0) and LMU (0-2) are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. in the second game of today’s doubleheader. Washington State (2-0) and Nevada (0-2) meet in the tournament opener at 4:30 p.m. Cindy Luis will be at the arena to cover the UH-LMU game.

Kennedy, a 6-foot-3 junior, spent her first two years of college at LMU and saw limited minutes in 17 games as freshman. She averaged 10.6 minutes in 24 appearances, including one start, as a sophomore in 2013-14.

She transferred to UH last year and spent the season in development. Her season on the bench due to transfer rules included watching the Wahine pull out an 85-76 win over LMU in Los Angeles last December.

“I was home for the Christmas break so I watched the game, and it was really frustrating not being able to play,” Kennedy said.

Now eligible to contribute, Kennedy has rotated into the frontcourt off the bench and made three of her five field-goal attempts and grabbed eight rebounds in UH’s wins at Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona last weekend. UH coach Laura Beeman noted Kennedy’s presence inside in her 17 minutes as a key to holding off NAU on Sunday.

“I think that right now it’s about getting that experience,” Beeman said. “You can sit out a year and get better and work hard and do all of those things, but until you get back on the floor you don’t really know what it feels like. If she continues to work the way she is, BK will be kind of a staple in our rotation.”

Kennedy is part of a post rotation that includes 6-1 Kalei Adolpho, 6-4 Connie Morris and 6-3 Megan Huff with 6-foot Ashleigh Karaitiana also able to slide from the wing to power forward.

Beeman said the ability of the post players to defend on the wings could be a key against LMU today.

“I want to go big, we want to stay big,” Beeman said. “I think we can. I think our posts are making great strides in perimeter defense.”

The Wahine will also have more depth in the backcourt with the expected return of senior Marissa Wimbley and freshman Olivia Crawford. Wimbley, one of UH’s leading 3-point threats, made the trip with the team last week but did not see game action due to a knee injury. Crawford played 23 minutes and had four points and two assists against Grand Canyon, but also sat out against NAU.