A pair of standout homegrown products — Konawaena’s Mikayla Tablit and Hilo’s Mandi Kawaha — signed with the UH-Hilo women’s basketball team.
The Vuls also signed a third guard, Maddie Beck from Michigan, who averaged 14 points, five rebounds and two assists per game.
Unlike the two local guards, who are skilled ball-handlers, Beck brings something different with her height.
The 6-foot Beck hit 74 percent from the free throw line, and her team went 20-5 and won the Michigan Class A regional championship.
“Maddie is a hard-working player who will bring a versatile skill-set and good length to our perimeter,” UHH coach David Kaneshiro said. “She is a good shooter and passer who plays with poise and has a nice feel for the game. She also has the toughness, competitiveness, and ability to be a very versatile and valuable defender for us.”
Tablit, a 5-5 point guard, led the Wildcats to four HHSAA titles, was inducted into the HHSAA Hall of Honor and finished with a 4.0 GPA.
Kawaha, a 5-3 guard, carried a 3.9 GPA, and like Tablit was on the All-BIIF first team.
“All three accomplished a lot in their high school careers both on the court and in the classroom. They all possess a strong work ethic, are tough competitors and are unselfish, team-first people,” Kaneshiro said. “Mikayla is a tough, competitive player with a high motor and good IQ. This past season she showed an ability and willingness to do whatever it took to help her team win. She directed the team from the point guard position, scored when it was needed, took on the role of defensive-stopper, rebounded, and was a team leader.
“Mandi is a very quick, skilled guard who can create scoring opportunities for herself and others. She is a good shooter, quick with the ball, and an excellent passer who sees the floor very well. She can also be very disruptive on the defensive end thanks to her quickness and understanding of the game.”
Tablit, Kawaha and Beck will join a roster that has eight returnees, including seven players with significant starting experience. The Vuls will open the season on Nov. 1 with an exhibition at UH-Manoa, followed by a home series against Multnomah on Nov. 16-17.
The Vuls, under second-year coach Gene Krieger, added their first homegrown player in middle blocker Melina Devela, from Waiakea, who’s a walk-on.
The 6-foot Devela landed on the All-BIIF first team as a senior and was regarded for her mobility and blocking prowess.
The Vuls signed a pair of sophomore Division I transfers in 5-7 Brooke Earkman (Long Beach State) and Bria Beale (UC Irvine).
Earkman started in four matches and averaged 1.88 kills per set.
“If anyone underestimates her based on height, they will be quickly surprised by her athletic and inspirational level of play. She could be a fan favorite in no time,” Krieger said of the diminutive outside hitter.
Beale, a 5-10 outside hitter, signed with the Anteaters in November 2016 but wasn’t listed on the roster for last season.
UHH’s other newcomers are Alex Parisian (Apple Valley HS), Taira Kaawaloa (Honolulu/Irvine Valley CC), Jorene Ulu (Waianae), Maile Powell (Laguna Hills, Calif.), and Teisa Tuioti (Laie, Hawaii/California HS).
Last year, the Vuls finished 9-18, their sixth straight losing season.