Pana soars to new heights at CWU

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Pana soars to new heights at CWU

Alexis Pana shoots free throws during practice with a .700 percent over two seasons.

Alexis Pana shoots free throws during practice with a .700 percent over two seasons.

Jack Lambert

Alexis Pana shoots free throws during practice with a .700 percent over two seasons.

Jack Lambert

Jack Lambert

Alexis Pana shoots free throws during practice with a .700 percent over two seasons.

Hanson Lee, Senior Sports Reporter

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Sophomore guard Alexis Pana has stepped into a significant role for the Wildcats. Pana is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 9.4 points per game, and has pushed herself into a playmaking role.

“I definitely feel more confident in myself and going on the court I feel more relaxed,” Pana said. “Instead of being so tense and trying to play not to mess up, [now] I play just to play for me and for our team and for our coaches.”  

Pana grew up in Hilo, Hawaii where she began playing basketball around the age of six. She first got into the sport because her dad was the head coach for the Hilo High School basketball team. She found a love for the game because it helped her take her mind off of  the outside world.

“I love basketball because it’s my escape and my safe place,” Pana said.

Pana would eventually attend Hilo High School where she played for her dad which she called a challenge due to his focus on her, but that she enjoyed their time together on the court.

“It was definitely rough. Just like any other parent if you played for them, they would be more hard on you than anybody else,” Pana said. “I really miss playing for him because he would point out everything on film.”

Pana’s earned her Big Island Interscholastic Federation first team honors for three of her four years on the team. She also made it onto the All-State First Team twice.

Pana came to Ellensburg with her team for a basketball tournament her junior year and Jeff Harada, the women’s head coach at the time, was there.

“Jeff came and he pretty much just started talking with me right away,” Pana said. “He just kept up with it and I really liked that.”

Pana liked what CWU had to offer, but still found it hard to adjust her freshman year.

“I liked the locker room… and the gym itself is just so beautiful,” Pana said. “It was rough freshman year… just the change in being away from home.”

Pana said she has improved her overall mindset her sophomore year.

“I took everything differently,” Pana said. “I took [being away from home] to motivate me to do better and use it to make a change in my game instead of letting it get me down.”

Pana said she’s thrived under head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley.

“I just think that her belief in me and her confidence in me really pushed me,” Pana said. “She knew my potential, she kept talking to me, kept bringing me in, and that helped me get to where I am today.”

Pana’s ability to create space on the floor has contributed to her success this season. Richardson-Thornley emphasized how Pana’s playmaking abilities have helped the team success so far.

“She’s just a whole other threat that teams have to worry about,” Richardson-Thornley said. “She expands our ability to make plays and score in different ways.”

From an offensive standpoint, Pana’s versatility on the floor has allowed her to become a defensive presence.

“She can get into passing lanes and make plays [and] get steals,” Richardson-Thornley said. “She’s been able to come up and make big plays when we’ve needed her to.”

Pana’s relationship with the coaching staff has also proved beneficial for her game.

“She’s a kid that wants to learn. She takes feedback really well,” Richardson-Thornley said. “I think her best basketball is ahead of her. She still has more room to expand and so I’m really excited to see where she goes in the next couple of years.”

Beyond the numbers, a lot of Pana’s success this season has had to do with her confidence.

“It’s hard to come in and be that person, but she is starting to be confident in her ability to change the game,” Richardson-Thornley said. “It all has to do with confidence and her confidence has grown a lot this year.”

Senior teammate Jasmin Edwards has been a key mentor, who helped Pana become acclimated to the team since arriving last season.

“She really is like a little sister to me,” Edwards said. “We make fun of each other and we both have each other’s backs.”

As a sophomore, Pana still has time with the Wildcats to learn and grow as a player.

“I hope she realizes the talent that she has and just kills it,” Edwards said. “She could score so much every night and defensively is such a presence.”