black ugg trainers A new star at the point for Syracuse women’s basketball
All great point guards know to keep their heads up in search of the next big moment, and Syracuse University sophomore Tiana Mangakahia is quickly working herself into that category.
So shortly after she set a program record with 17 assists in a win over Vanderbilt on Friday, Mangakahia pondered if and when she could break her own mark.
“I was just telling one of the girls (teammate Miranda Drummond) yesterday, ‘Man, I’m going to try and beat my own record,”’ Mangakahia said earlier this week. “But I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that. I guess we’ll just wait and see.”
And in the meantime, oh what fun Mangakahia could be to watch.
After two years of sitting out at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Mangakahia is making up for lost time with a vengeance in Syracuse. Stepping in for all time great playmaker Alexis Peterson, Mangakahia is pacing Division I with an average of 11.8 assists per game and is also chipping in 13.3 points per game.
Her aggressiveness and strong cardio capabilities (she’s averaging nearly 33 minutes per game) have been a perfect and necessary fit for a Syracuse team that’s cranked the tempo to a 6 0 start and No. 25 ranking in the latest USA Today coaches poll.
“I love playing like this. This is the style of play that I love,” Mangakahia said.
“She has really made a great transition from not playing to being, I think, one of the top point guards in the country,” said Orange coach Quentin Hillsman. “She’s a tough guard, and she’s really tough to keep in front of you. She’s doing a magnificent job for us.”
Mangakahia hails from near Brisbane, Australia, and she carries a crisp accent from her homeland. She said at the start of the semester classmates constantly asked her where she’s from, but now that she’s settled most people know her backstory
She’s a couple years removed from her roots, after two idle seasons at Hutchinson (eligibility issues kept her from playing there). Still, she greatly misses her hometown and proudly displays an Australian flag in her SU apartment.
“I get homesick here. I got homesick in Kansas. It’s just a part of life, I feel like. But I wake up every day and come here. I try to talk to my parents as much as possible,” she said. “It’s hard because of the time difference. On the weekends is usually when I get to speak to them.
“Everywhere I go it’s an adjustment because it’s new people, new things, new coaches. So far it’s been great. The girls have really helped me get used to the culture here and the different kinds of foods. I didn’t have much snow clothes so the girls helped me with that. I just bought my first pair of Ugg boots, some snow boots. That helped me. I really don’t like the snow. But I’ll get used to it.”
While Mangakahia (pronounced Mon ga ka hee a) transitions to Syracuse, the Orange figures to benefit from the basketball culture she exported from Down Under.
Growing up in Australia, she understandably idolized home country basketball stars Penny Taylor and Lauren Jackson. Although at 5 foot 6 Mangakahia is considerably shorter than both those greats, she tried to reshape their attack mode style of play into her more compact game. While Mangakahia can finesse her way in and out of traffic, she seems to be comfortable and effective with a more direct approach of seeking crowds and contact.
“I just love the way they play and their aggressiveness and tenacity,” Mangakahia said. “I think just growing up, my natural ability is just to attack the rim and cause the defenders to collapse. And then I’ll always look for the open player. I try and envision it before I’m in the key. As I’m bringing the ball up the floor I try and envision what I’m going to do or I just do what the defense gives me. If they go one way, I’ll go the opposite.”
But potential is one thing, productivity under the glare of the demanding Hillsman is another. Peterson, Mangakahia’s predecessor at the point, ranks second in school history with 1,978 career points and is first on the all time assists list with 590.
Mangakahia may not ever be in Peterson’s league as a dynamic scorer. But Hillsman sees in her the ability to take over games with her dishes.
“I think they’re the same, but they are a bit different,” Hillsman said, comparing the two. “Alexis was just a very explosive scorer. I think that Tiana has the same impact, the other way. She’s a very explosive passer. They are both very effective for us.”
Mangakahia’s debut for SU takes on an even brighter shine because she’s jumped straight into a high level of Division I ball after more than two years away from serious competition.
“I trust my ability. And Coach Q has really helped and he has confidence in me, so it’s helped myself,” Mangakahia said. “But at the start, the scrimmages were a little bit edgy. But just getting back into the flow of things has helped a lot. I’m feeling great and I feel like I can take on anything.”
Hillsman makes sure to gird her for those challenges. Both coach and player have pointed out how loud and demanding he can be, and Hillsman’s scrutiny will only become greater as she keeps proving she can respond to pressure.
“He’s still tough sometimes. Sometimes when I make passes that I shouldn’t have he will tell me and let me know how he feels about that,” she said.
“The better she gets the better I want her to play. She’s doing great,” Hillsman said. “She’s a very mature player. So I’m able to just kind of watch her play and try to give her input as needed. But she’s doing a good job of running our team and getting all of our players involved.”
Mangakahia would love to share the fun with her parents. She said that they might be planning a trip to the United States, but, alas, they have their sights set on Las Vegas. It’s tough for Syracuse to compete with that.
Still, they want to see her playing in an Orange jersey and inquired about an in season visit.
Wait until the NCAA Tournament, Mangakahia said she told her folks. There could be a lot more drama and excitement at that time of the season.
It still might not match what Las Vegas can offer, but at the clip she’s started the flashy show Mangakahia puts on for SU once she really finds her way around her new court could be a main event in itself.