Hoops: Big WSU verbal the first of three?

POINT GUARD Lia Galdeira’s recent decision to forego her senior season to turn pro was a huge blow for Washington State. But the good news is that the flow of outstanding Hawaiian women’s basketball players coming to Pullman is just heating up. Hawaii’s top women’s hoops recruit, Chanelle Molina, has verbally committed to WSU. Not only that, it could be just the start of the Molina-WSU pipeline.

WSU in recent weeks had emerged as the frontrunner in the recruitment of Molina, a 5-6 point guard ranked No. 44 nationally among players in the Class of 2016. Her verbal pledge to WSU on Thursday was reported by West Hawaii Today and other media.

Molina had more than two dozen offers, choosing WSU over her three other finalists from the Pac-12: Oregon State, Arizona State and Oregon. Of that quartet, however, Washington State is the only one who has also offered scholarships to her two sisters.

Molina, who will be a senior this fall at Konawaena High, is the reigning two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Hawaii and a three-time Big Island Interscholastic Federation Player of the Year.

Last season, she averaged 17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 3.1 steals, making 57.9 percent of her two-point shots and leading Konawaena to a 33-1 record and a Division I state title.

Cougars coaches have scouted Molina extensively.

June Daugherty saw her play at the End of the Trail AAU tournament in Oregon. Cougars associate head coach Mike Daugherty went to see Molina at the ‘Iolani Classic in Hawaii last December. And Cougars assistant coach Ashley Gill saw her at the 2015 Hawaii state championships.

In addition, Molina, who initially planned to make her decision in November around the early signing period, has visited the Washington State campus.

“When I go to college, I want it to feel like family, and that’s how (the Cougars coaches) made me feel,” Molina told CF.C recently, before she made her verbal commitment. “No matter where I go, my sisters want to follow me. We’re like a package deal.”

That puts the Cougars in good shape down the road to make it a Molina trio in Pullman. Celena Jane, a 5-8 wing, will be a junior this fall. Cherilyn, a 5-4 point guard, will be a sophomore. (pictured above L-R are Celena Jane, Cherilyn and Chanelle).

Chanelle said Cherilyn may ultimately be the best of the three while Celena may be even better at volleyball than hoops. The three sisters also won a state volleyball title last year.

As for the Cougars, even with the loss of Galdeira earlier this month, they still have another Hawaiian standout on the women’s basketball roster -- Dawnyelle Awa, a 5-9 guard who started all 66 of the Cougars’ games the past two seasons, helping the Cougs reach two straight postseasons berths. Awa has 79 career starts and will have an opportunity to do even more now that Galdeira is gone.

Galdeira, who will play in Europe this fall, led the Pac-12 in steals (105) and finished second in scoring (20.0) this past season.

“I’m glad for her,” Chanelle said when asked about Galdeira turning pro. “I kind of guessed it (that she would turn pro) because she is an awesome player. I look up to her. She gives me hope, and she gives all of Hawaii hope.”

Meanwhile, Awa is the daughter of Bobbie Awa, who coaches the Molina sisters at Konawaena.

That may have been another recruiting advantage for the Cougars. Bobbie Awa is certainly high on Chanelle Molina’s talents.

“She plays to win all the time,” Awa said. “She loves winning and is very driven and confident. She knows when the game gets down to the wire, the ball needs to be in her hands. She will put the team on her back – ‘you ride with me’ - but she is not selfish.” The elder Awa, who has coached in Hawaii for over two decades, said Molina is one of the top five players to ever come out of Hawaii – with the potential to be the best all-around.

Fran Villarmia-Kahawai coaches Team Aloha, which comprises the top 10 or so girls in the state. He was immediately impressed with Molna the first time she saw her.

“I was blown away,” said Villarmia-Kahawai, who met her during Molina’s freshman year. “I thought: ‘This girl can be one of the best players to come out of Hawaii.’ She runs fast, jumps high, and she understands the game and is willing to work hard to get better.”

Chanelle, who has a 3.57 grade-point average, is interested in studying physical therapy or sports medicine.

She burst on the scene nationally this past winter, when Konawaena upset two of the country’s top teams in Hawaii’s annual ‘Iolani Classic.

First up, Konawaena upset Miramonte (Orinda, California), 63-62. Miramonte, ranked No. 23 at the time, was led by 5-11 point guard Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 6 player in the Class of 2016.

Ionescu and Chanelle engaged in a classic shootout. Ionescu won the battle, putting up 39 points, 17 rebounds, six steals, five assists and three blocks. But Chanelle, who had an efficient 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with seven assists and six rebounds, won the game.

The next night, Dec. 12, Konawaena upset No. 17 Riverdale Baptist (Marlboro, Maryland), 49-41. Riverdale had four girls that were 6-foot-1 or taller while Konawaena’s team, which was missing its center, averaged 5-5 in height. Chanelle had 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in that game.

“They gym was packed,” Villarmia-Kahawai said. “People were amazed.”

In the tournament’s championship game, Konawaena finally lost, falling, 68-59, against St. Mary’s (Stockton, California), ranked 10th nationally at the time. Chanelle had 17 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocks. Chanelle was named tournament MVP.

“I think Chanelle is good enough to be a potential Team USA player,” Awa said. “People from the outside say the baby Molina girl (Cherilyn) will be the best of the three, but I think it’s Chanelle because she has the heart and the drive.

“Chanelle is a special player.”


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