By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball coach David Kaneshiro has signed two guards and a center to help rebuild a squad that lost eight players to graduation.
The new players are:
• Jordan Kealoha, a 5-foot-4 junior point guard out of Mid-Pacific Institute on Oahu who played her first two years at Division I Sacramento State. She came off the bench for coach Jamie Craighead while playing in 48 games over two seasons for the Hornets.
At Mid-Pac, she played for coach Wes Masuda and lettered four years in basketball. She earned all-league honors each season and as a senior was named to the all-Interscholastic League of Honolulu second team. She also competed in judo and finished runner-up in the state in her weight class as a senior.
“We are very happy that Jordan has decided to return to Hawaii to continue her basketball career,” Kaneshiro said. “She brings a lot of experience having competed at the Division I level. She is a quick guard who makes good decisions, shoots the ball well and is a tireless defender.”
• McKenzie Mangino, a 5-10 junior center out of Santa Rosa Junior College in Northern California. She was a two-year starter for the powerful Bear Cubs, who went 27-7 last year, were co-champions in the Big 8 Conference, and reached the Final Four of the California JC Championships. Two years ago, Santa Rosa captured the state title.
Mangino, who attended Ursuline High School in Santa Rosa, averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds per game for coach Lacey Campbell’s squad. She was considered one of the top defensive players in the conference as well as a strong rebounder.
Mangino also earned academic all-conference honors.
“McKenzie is a very skilled, smart, tough post player,” Kaneshiro said. “She is an excellent passer, can shoot from the perimeter, and has a great understanding of angles and positioning when defending the low post.”
• Charlotte “CC” Rode, a 5-8 junior combo guard out of Cochise College in Douglas, Ariz. She played two years for coach Laura Hughes and was a key contributor last season on a team that finished 26-6 and advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association Region I championship game.
Rode, who grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., and attended El Dorado High School, averaged 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game last season at Cochise College. She had a 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio while shooting 48 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range.
“CC is a very good all-around guard,” Kaneshiro said. “Although her team didn’t need her to be a big scorer — they had four players sign with Division I schools in the spring, she has shown that she can shoot the 3, handle the ball and make good decisions. She’s also an excellent defender who can guard multiple positions on the floor.”
Kaneshiro feels the talented trio will have a solid impact on this year’s Vulcans squad as they join Alexa Jacobs, a 5-7 freshman point guard, as part of Kaneshiro’s 2013 recruiting class.
Jacobs, who signed in the fall, averaged 18 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds at Mountain Ridge High School in Phoenix. She was a three-time all-state and all-region player, and was recruited by a handful of D-II schools.
“Alexa had an outstanding high school career,” Kaneshiro said. “She’s a very skilled player who can score the ball and plays really tough defense.”
The Vulcans coach is in the process of signing an additional four players to fill out the team.
Kaneshiro, starting his fourth season at UHH, lost eight seniors to graduation following a 13-11 overall record in 2012-13, including a 10-7 mark in the Pacific West Conference. The graduating seniors included Kirsten Shimizu, Kirsty Imai, Jameia McDuffie, Natalie Mata, Shannon Rousseau, Jazlyn Afusia, Elise Spain and Jazz Corpuz.
The returnees are senior-to-be Kamie Imai, junior Thea Hanato-Smith and sophomore Mandi Lum.
Imai, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward and the lone returning starter, led the Vulcans in scoring (10.9 per game), rebounds (7.3 per game) and assists (83), and was second in steals (30) last year while earning all-PacWest second team honors.
“We had a really good nucleus with those graduating seniors,” Kaneshiro said. “We’ll miss them, but I think the new group coming in is very similar, a good character group.
“The new group is a little bigger and a little more athletic than the previous group. The new group is also strong academically and has a lot of the intangibles that we’ll need to be successful. Still, we’re basically going to be a whole new team and have to build from there.”
Email Tribune-Herald sports editor Bill O’Rear at email@example.com.