Rainbow Wahine basketball: Olivia Davies brings veteran presence

Nov. 18—Olivia Davies has come a long way to arrive at her sophomore year with the University of Hawaii women's basketball team.

Olivia Davies has come a long way to arrive at her sophomore year with the University of Hawaii women's basketball team.

Davies signed her letter of intent to join the Rainbow Wahine in November 2018, during her senior year at Matsu Career Tech in Wasilla, Alaska. Four years later, she returns as the longest-tenured player of this season's team and the lone member of the five-player 2018 signing class still enrolled at UH.

So she acknowledges the oddity of being classified as a fourth-year sophomore on the Rainbow Wahine roster.

"I'm old and tired, but happy to be here, " Davies said with a laugh.

A knee injury forced Davies to redshirt in her first year at UH (2019-20 ). She made her on-court debut in the truncated "COVID " season of 2021 and her freshman status extended into last season, when she helped the Wahine capture the Big West regular-season and tournament championships.

Seasoned by experience transcending her class standing, Davies was selected as a team captain this season in her return to a veteran, and versatile, UH backcourt.

"I think it definitely helped me grow as an individual, " Davies said of the trials upon joining the program. "It was a lot of hardships on the front end, but where I'm at now, it's completely night and day with who I was.

"Being here for four years is something super special, especially since I get two more years. Those first two years were iffy (and ) I learned a lot, so where I am now is a very good position."

Davies has contributed at both guard spots during her UH career and returns along with sophomore Kelsie Imai. The group was further bolstered by the addition of Lily Wahinekapu, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton. Wahinekapu, a former All-State Player of the Year at 'Iolani, was named the Big West Freshman of the Year last season and joined her sister, freshman Jovi Lefotu, with the Wahine.

"This is a really fun group, " Davies said. "Everybody's super supportive of each other, especially the guards. It feels a lot like a family. It has throughout the years, but there's something special about this team."

Notably absent from this year's guard group is Nae Nae Calhoun, who was part of Davies' signing class. Calhoun transferred to California Baptist to be closer to home, and UH coach Laura Beeman noted the need to find "a voice " to fill the void of Calhoun's vocal presence.

"I don't have a big voice, I don't have a Nae voice, but I'm trying ... and learning to be a leader, " said Davies, who averaged 8.3 points per game while making 16 starts among her 24 appearances in UH's title run.

After Calhoun suffered a season-ending injury early in the 2021 season, Imai started 16 of UH's 17 games and earned a spot on the Big West's all-freshman team. The Waiakea graduate made 21 starts last season and ranked second on the team with 68 assists while averaging 4.5 points per game. She came off the bench and sparked UH's fourth-quarter comeback against Oregon State in the season opener on Nov. 7 before the host Beavers pulled out a 61-60 win.

Wahinekapu started at the point in both games of last week's road trip to the Pacific Northwest and went 3-for-6 from 3-point range in her official UH debut at Oregon State. She led Cal State Fullerton with 14 points per game last season and was voted to this year's preseason All-Big West team by the league's coaches.

Imai played against Wahinekapu and Lefotu when Waiakea faced 'Iolani in the semifinals of the 2020 Division I state tournament. Imai led the Warriors with 14 points, while Wahinekapu finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds and Lefotu added 13 points for the eventual state champion Raiders.

They also played together with Team Aloha and the Stingrays Hawaii club, giving them a sense of chemistry when they reunited at UH as part of a quartet of local products on the roster along with Kalani alumna Hallie Birdsong.

"Getting to play with them again is so fun, " Imai said. "They're like my sisters and they're just great people on and off the court.

"It's nice to have people on the team who come from the same background and understand how much the islands mean to us and how much we want to represent our home state."