With two regular season games remaining, the Hawaii Pacific women’s basketball team is enjoying a historic 2019-2020 season. The Sharks are currently 25-1, winners of 21 straight and ranked fifth nationally in the latest D2SIDA poll.
Perhaps no player has been more central to the team’s success than star guard Starr Rivera, who also happens to be the only player on the team from Hawaii. The redshirt senior from Roosevelt is averaging a team-high 18.1 points per game while making 70 3-pointers at an efficient 47.3 percent clip.
“It’s awesome. I really didn’t think I’d ever be here throughout all my years of high school,” she told KHON2. “Just through work. My mom’s been pushing me this whole way and I’m just so excited to be here right now.”
Rivera also leads the team in minutes played per game at 36.0 while adding 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest. To head coach Reid Takatsuka, Rivera’s impact on the program goes beyond the numbers.
“Starr is amazing. So lucky that we have her. It’s a blessing. She is our spark plug. We kind of just let her do her thing,” Takatsuka said. “She loves playing basketball, she’s passionate about it and I think it’s infectious. She loves playing and I think it just rubs off on everyone else.
“Being local, I think it’s been great for our program. Roosevelt grad, hometown girl doing extremely well, our leading scorer, there’s so many good things I can say about her. She’s just amazing.”
On top of their high national ranking, the Sharks are also ranked as the No. 1 team in the Western Region by the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Committee. Despite Rivera’s individual success, both her and Takatsuka agree that the team’s chemistry and closeness has been the main reason behind its special year.
“I feel like we’re really playing together as a team. We really got each other’s backs and that’s making us successful throughout the season,” Rivera said. “I feel like when we make mistakes and stuff like that, our thing is short term memory, on to the next play and we keep going from there and our energy level is always high.”
“We just go out there and we play hard. We want to win.”
The Sharks close out their regular season with a pair of games against Hawaii teams this week. Up first is a 5:30 game at Chaminade on Tuesday, followed by its senior night game against Hawaii Hilo on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Shark Tank, located at the old St. Francis Gym.
HPU has already locked up the regular season title and top seed in the PacWest, where it is a perfect 20-0 for the season. Even if the Sharks don’t win their conference tournament, which runs from March 5-7 in Azusa, Calif., they are likely to receive an at-large bid.
Only time will tell how Rivera’s collegiate career ends, but Takatsuka already believes she’s already set an indelible example for other local girls aspiring to play collegiately.
“I think it’s super cool because she’s all of 5-3, 5-4. I think it gives kids at least an opportunity to see her play locally and maybe have that dream of playing at this level,” he said. “This is not an easy level to play at and she’s super good at it. I think with her work ethic and everything she’s done for our program, I think the local kids can look at her and be like ‘man, I want to be just like her.’ I think it’s been super special for us.”