WHWL: Enjoy Molina’s magic while you can

In this edition of What Have We Learned, the beginning of basketball preseason is on the mantle. Or maybe it is an altar of sacrifice, because Lord only knows the time, energy and hope that were shed in the recruitment of the magical, clutch and amazing basketball player known as Chanelle Molina.

Turns out that Konawaena senior and walking triple-double threat has known for a year what she wanted. For Washington State, it is a stunningly good time to have a pipeline to Kealakekua. Molina’s Konawaena squad swept through the recent Ted Fukushima Invitational girls basketball tournament over the weekend at Kaiser High School, routing ‘Iolani, Kaiser and Punahou.


On Nov. 12, Molina signed with Washington State, where former Konawaena standouts Lia Galdeira and Dawnyelle Awa went after illustrious prep careers. Galdeira left the Cougars after her junior year and is now playing professional basketball. Awa led WSU over Hawaii on Sunday at Stan Sheriff Center. Now, Molina follows their trail. And she says she made up her mind a year ago after an official visit to the Pullman, Wash. campus.

“I knew that was the college I wanted to go to,” Molina said. “A lot of people wanted me to go to UH, but I kind of wanted to get away from Hawaii, go to the mainland and experience something different.”

Pullman is a country town. Isolated. A college town as much as a rural one. Galdeira and Awa laid a fine foundation and blueprint for Molina, a two-time all-state player of the year, to follow. When Awa graduates, Molina will step in as the Cougars’ point guard.

“I’m taking her spot. I’m taking her number,” Molina said, pointing to the 11 on her jersey, the same number that Awa has worn for four seasons as a Cougar.

That’s three out of the last three Division I college recruits out of Coach Bobbie Awa’s dynastic program going from up mauka to Pullman. There have been a string of Wildcats who went on to college hoops, going back to Awa (HPC, now HPU) and much more often since she took over as a coach. Jessica Hanato. Jazzmin Awa-Williams. Nancy Hoist. Mana Hopkins. On and on.

Meanwhile, from an island point of view — especially for those of us who have been fans of the UH program since way back, since the Vince Goo-Judy Mosley-Ayesha Brooks-Lynette Liu-Melissa Barker stretch in the 1980s when the Wahine became a powerhouse in the Big West — it doesn’t quite make sense. UH is on statewide TV, playing in a beautiful facility. The market is and has almost always been there. During Nani Cockett’s career, the Rainbow Wahine drew crowds to the arena — more than 6,000 for Cockett’s finale.

UH’s first loss of the season after three wins were muddied by more than 20 turnovers. Would Molina help solve this issue for the Wahine? Mmm-hmm.

But the roots of this ongoing mystery — of why top local players depart rather than stay home — goes back to the regime before Laura Beeman arrived at Manoa. Dana Takahara-Dias was unable to land Galdeira and Awa. Prior to that, the men’s program had trouble corralling arguably the best prep player in boys basketball history here, Derrick Low. Now in the midst of a pro career overseas, Low was the first island hoopster to venture to Washington State.

Beeman is clearly an outstanding coach (Big West 2014-15 COY) who recruits well. Her pipeline to California remains active and productive. Molina got a scholarship offer from Beeman as a sophomore. Coach did her homework, for sure.

And yet, Molina says her top three choices were Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State, not necessarily in that order, obviously. That’s out of an offer list of “two dozen” schools, she said.

>> Pac-12 Conference
There’s no denying that the Big West is not the Pac-12, and when Molina says the words, “Pac-12”, they just sound different. Her parents and family, Molina adds, can always turn on the TV to see her play.

“That was a must. It had to be Pac-12,” she said.

For UH fans, this is not good. Not ever good. Never good. We wanted to be in the Pac-12. Still do. Not happening. Out of Coach Beeman’s control.


>> Pullman
Low’s father, Kenny Low, happened to pass by as I sat in a mall the other night. We chatted for a few seconds, a few minutes, then several minutes. One of the plus-points for Pullman is that there is a small community of transplanted Hawaii folks there. They get together, make snacks (Spam musubi) and make island student transplants feel at home as often as they can. It’s not a serious recruiting ingredient, but it doesn’t hurt, does it?

>> Laura B’s extension
In the minds and hearts of Rainbow Wahine fans, she gets to coach here as long as she wants. She got a three-year extension last year. In reality, she could be here 20 years or just one more year. There’s no way to know right now. Overqualified for UH? Those are pretty strong words, but they’re true. Beeman could take over any program in the Pac-12, and probably anywhere in the country, and make it competitive, turn it into a title contender. Then again, she could have left by now. She didn’t, pulling out of the Utah job search in April after reportedly becoming a finalist. (The Utah position pays roughly double what the UH salary is.)

I know this is basically unreasonable, but if a player wants to play for Beeman, and for whatever reason, Beeman leaves for another university, that player could transfer, too. Sure, there’s that one year of sitting out per NCAA transfer rules. So what? That’s a year worth investing, to simply work out, be a student. Any pro ambitions aren’t completely hindered; Galdeira left Wazzu after three seasons.

But Beeman signed an extension. She plans on staying.

All of this had to grate on Beeman and her staff as WSU came into Stan Sheriff Arena and beat UH on Sunday. With Awa making it look easy. Five steals. Layup after layup. Slick passes. Effortless. Molina is more athletic than Awa was as a high school athlete. Almost as explosive as Galdeira. Almost, almost a hybrid of the two. A willingness and, my opinion, an enjoyment in delivering passes to open teammates. That’s what she has, as well as a knowledge of the game that goes beyond playing one position. She’s at ease spotting up for open threes and running business through the high post. She is positionless and yet the hub of so much in the Konawaena offense.

Fear not, Wahine fans. We will have our talent to watch as Beeman channels her passion and immense knowledge through her players. She will continue to recruit well. It just would’ve been nice, more than nice, to see Molina’s skills on display in Manoa for four seasons.

Beeman, to her credit, moves on quickly. Per NCAA rules, college coaches cannot comment on high school student-athletes, but there hasn’t been a trickle of noise regarding Molina. Not even the tiniest splash. But after playing nice and inviting WSU to the Rainbow Wahine Classic in recent years, it would surprising to see the Cougars back. I wouldn’t do it and I wouldn’t blame Beeman for shunning the team in maroon from this point on. It hasn’t done the Wahine any real good, not in recruiting battles past and present.

Come to Pullman, play in the Pac-12. We’ll even play in Hawaii a couple of times before you graduate.

Maybe not.

The Cougars probably don’t care either way at this point. Galdeira opting to leave WSU in July for a pro paycheck in Europe opened eyes from Eastern Washington to the middle of the Pacific. It also serves as a template that any aspiring professional might want to track.

Remote? Kenny Low remembers Pullman very well. If the main road into the town is closed (snow, anyone?), the alternate route is a 4.5-hour trek around the other side. Europe? Cockett played there as a pro, including a stint in Israel. Galdeira could (and should) still play for the U.S. national team at some point. Wherever those dreams take her, she’s grown up and pursuing the next leg of that great path.

Molina is still here, with sisters Celena Jane and Cherilyn (both played outstanding basketball at the Kaiser tourney), Ihi Victor and a few other teammates. She’s got a couple of months of basketball ahead before moving on to the next stop.

“It’s amazing,” Low said. “How a small place on the edge of the Big Island produces so much basketball talent.”


My suggestion: Enjoy watching the defending state champions play together as often as you can. Konawaena will be in Honolulu for the ‘Iolani Classic next week.

image

Konawaena's Chanelle Molina drove past Lahainaluna's Fe-Ko-Fiemea Hafoka during the second half of the 2015 D-I state title game.  (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser).
Konawaena’s Chanelle Molina drove past Lahainaluna’s Fe-Ko-Fiemea Hafoka during the second half of the 2015 D-I state title game. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

COMMENTS

  1. KonaWarrior November 24, 2015 2:59 pm

    Excellent story about these young women of Kona. One aspect that I would add is that when you live on the outer islands and experience the warmth and real Aloha spirit, Oahu is almost a place that most of us try to avoid if we can. With the traffic, rail issues, homeless problems, the state of UH athletics and general attitude of people you interact with, going to a small town like Pullman and yet compete in a big time conference/school is the best of two worlds. It is becoming a no brainer for out island people, if you have a child that is talented/gifts, go to the mainland and excel.


  2. zoocrew4ever November 24, 2015 3:53 pm

    great article about chanelle and the wildcats. one thing i can say is about how the the takahara-dias regime was running the wahine b-ball program. coach takahara-dias and mufi hanneman had put together a all star squad to go to the mainland and snubbed lia and dawnyelle only concentrating on putting on players from iolani, punahou etc. so that didn’t help their relationship in recruting the girls to come to uh later on. not saying that was only reason they went to pullman but didn’t hurt. now there is a solid pipeline set to pullman from kona. wish they could represent hawaii at uh but wherever they are happy is cool.


  3. EwaEwa November 24, 2015 3:53 pm

    KonaWarrior enjoy it while you can because Big Island and Maui are the next hotspot for mainlanders wanting to settle down and they going be your neighbors. Also the Rich chinese and japanese have been invading Oahu for decades now and our Native locals are moving out of State. Nobody lives Aloha any more they only speak of it.


  4. Mauian5 November 24, 2015 7:04 pm

    Washington St. has also come to Maui and recruited Cameron Fernandez
    from Lahainaluna to commit to them also. Fernandez is rated #2 prospect
    behind Molina in this Senior class.


  5. joe schmo November 24, 2015 9:04 pm

    Rated #2 by who? You?


  6. Humble November 25, 2015 9:12 am

    Who do you think is #2 prospect?


  7. Humble November 25, 2015 9:24 am

    As bloggers, I think its important to remember what we are commenting on. These are all talented young women that on any given night could be considered the “BEST” and ranked behind Chanelle based on their performance. Lahainaluna has great girls talent, but, Konawaena, Punahou, Maryknoll, Iolani, Roosevelt etc. to much to list, but all talented. However, considering the offers and attention Fernandez had, she could be considered #2 among others. No need to attack one another about rating these young women. It’s subjective and everyone is entitled to their opinions. It’s also important to remember that these young women also may read these comments and it should be positive towards all of them.


  8. joe schmo November 25, 2015 11:43 am

    Not attacking anyone or trying to cause any drama. Just wondering how someone can say a certain player is ranked #2 unless there is an official ranking somewhere. If not, it’s just opinion. Not saying she isn’t a really good player either and she very well could be the #2 prospect in the state, but I’d like to think players are ranked on talent and potential rather than merely just offers and attention. Sometimes the best prospects don’t get attention because they are at a small school or lack media coverage. I have no clue if Mariota was considered the top prospect in the state his senior year (and maybe others had more offers or attention), but he turned out pretty good if he wasn’t. The only other players I would think could be considered at #2 based solely on talent and potential at the next level would be Hilo’s Alexis Pana or maybe Keala Quinlan from Roosevelt. Just my opinion of course.


  9. Makai November 25, 2015 1:04 pm

    Hurts to see the top local talent leave Hawaii especially for football. I say lets not schedule WBB against Wazu for a decade.


  10. Humble November 25, 2015 7:02 pm

    Good points Joe Schmo. Makai I think not inviting WSU to WBB might be counterproductive. I believe UH should invite WSU and more PAC-12 schoosl to show they can compete in that Conference and hopefully be considered if the conference should expand. I believe Chanelle chose WSU because of the strong relationship WSU has with the Kona program. Her past teammates was a huge part in her decision and so was her Coach. I mean, if her Coach intrusted her own daughter to play at WSU, I’m pretty sure she gave her blessing for Chanelle. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think her Coach persuaded her to go WSU, but there must be some influence. In terms of Hawaii kids staying to play in Hawaii, I think that should be directed to UH. Facilities and support are at a low point. These big schools provide more support to student athletes that UH needs to improve on. Also, local talents are often overlooked by UH for reason unknown. I commented on that earlier regarding local girls b-ball talent. UH never recruited Quinlan, Hafoka, Fernandez until other mainland schools showed interest. Why? Some mainland school were in contact with local talent since they were sophomores and UH never made contact. I think they should make contact and develope a relationship with local talent even if they may not be able to offer a scholarship. That way local talent may be more loyal to the friendship and trust that has developed. Just my thoughts.


  11. Basketball Fan November 27, 2015 5:52 pm

    http://espn.go.com/high-school/girls-basketball/recruiting/rankings/_/class/2016

    Miss Molina currently sits at #36. That is very impressive. I believe if she had a coach who had more mainland connections with colleges then she would have been offered by more Top 25 schools. Just a little tidbit of info. Of all the Hawaii Girls who have even been ranked since ESPN took over Hoopgurlz, Shawna Kuehu was ranked the highest. She was rated #4 overall in the 2008 class until she got injured. Vicky Tagalicod who signed with USC was also highly rated in 2009.


  12. Basketball Fan November 28, 2015 7:24 am

    To Humble: Hafoka and Fernandez really got a lot of interest after playing in Anaheim and Chicago with Coach Mike Taylor and his club.


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