Tiana's Journey to Syracuse: Mangakahia brings Aussie flair to SU Women's Hoops program
Replacing arguably America's best point guard, Alexis Peterson, takes vision -- one that only Syracuse University head women's basketball coach Quentin Hillsman could see.
"She's been fantastic," Hillsman said about his sophomore point guard, Tiana Mangakahia. "She's the reason why we're winning right now. She has the ball in her hands about 80 percent of the game, and she's doing a really good job of just directing our team."
As for her name, it may be one that you are still trying to learn how to pronounce.
"Tiana Mangakahia [Mah-nah-kah-he-uh]," she pronounced.
But once you get past that, the rest is so easy.
Tiana's game speaks for itself.
"Oh, I'm a distributor," she explained when asked how to describe her game. "Yeah, but he [Hillsman] let's me play free, so I feel like I can create."
She can do it all -- literally -- already recording 10 double-doubles through 20 games. Not to mention, a 44-point outburst against Georgia Tech.
Oh yeah, and she's only a sophomore.
"When I think about the following years, I just think about the things I need to work on the most to get better as a player and a teammate," she explained.
As the world turns, so too does Quentin Hillsman's recruiting efforts. By the time next season rolls around, Q's roster will feature seven international players, which makes up more than a third of SU's roster.
As for Tiana, it's time for a geography lesson: Growing up in Queensland, Australia, a flight to New York State is roughly 24 hours of nonstop travel, over the Pacific Ocean, and essentially across the entire continental United States.
As you can probably imagine, life in the land down under, is a whole lot different than life in America.
"Family and the beach," Mangakahia replied when asked what she misses about home. "I miss the beach."
For those of you who have never been to Australia, unbelievable is quite the understatement in regards to the beauty of the scenery.
So, when an Aussie lands in Central New York, naturally, there's going to take some getting used to.
"Yes, everyone on the team," she answered when asked about her teammates shock at her Australian accent. "When I first got here, they were laughing when I'd say funny things or say something funny.
"For McDonald's, I would say 'Mackers'," she gave as an example, "because that's what we say back home. For the trunk, we call it the 'boot' of the car. The 'rubbish' instead of the trash -- just things where they would say, 'what?'"
All jokes aside, Tiana Mangakahia is the real deal.
From high school ball in Australia, to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, and now to Syracuse University -- the goal has always and will always remain the same.
"My ultimate goal is to win an NCAA Championship," she announced. "That's my ultimate goal for the program and myself. I obviously want to go to the WNBA, that's my goal after."
Mangakahia leads the Orange in points (17.6) and assists (10.0) per game as a sophomore.