Girls Basketball
Iolani grad Wu found perfect fit with Cal Baptist




Taylor Wu had a pretty good idea of what she wanted after high school and the 2019 Iolani graduate found just what she was looking for in Cal Baptist.

The Christian university located in Riverside, California — and its relatively-new-to-Division-I women's basketball team — checked off all the proverbial boxes for Wu, a two-time All-Hawaii selection for the Raiders.

"I wanted to be comfortable and Hawaii is so small and Iolani is only such a small part of Hawaii and for me, I didn't want a really big school with 50,000 students," said Wu, a 5-foot-7 sophomore and business/finance major.

"I wanted something really small where I could kind of know everyone and get to meet everyone, so I think that the size of the school was definitely a big thing for me. I didn't want anything too big and I also wanted the school that would best suit me for my major and also for basketball," she said.

CBU's Dr. Robert K. Jabs School of Business has been rated as among the top three in the state of California for its MBA program. In the arena of athletics, the Lancers compete in the Western Athletic Conference, which they joined in 2018 after moving up from Division II and the PacWest Conference.

"It's been great. My freshman year, which was last year, I got to meet a lot of new people and I got to experience a lot of different things with my teammates and meeting new friends and doing school activities and it was really fun," Wu said. "But this year it's been kind of so-so. With COVID, only athletes are allowed on campus and it's kind of just been me and my basketball team right now since everyone's not on campus right now, so I've just kind of had only them around, but it's been good; I love it here."

Wu, a first team All-ILH and All-Hawaii selection as a high school senior, said that when she was being recruited by Lancers coach Jarrod Olson, she found a lot of similarities between CBU and Iolani.

"It is really similar and that's why I wanted to come here because I think that both teams were so similar with quickness and speed and that's something that I was looking for when I play college basketball," said Wu, who thrived in the Raiders' fast-paced, guard-oriented system.

"(Olson) told me that they played really quick and fast, which I loved because I love playing at a fast pace and I think that's what I bring to the team, is my speed and my quickness and my ability to handle the ball and have good court vision, so I think those are definitely some things I bring to the team," Wu added.

It didn't take long for Wu to flash a glimpse of her potential. In just the second game of her collegiate basketball career, Wu set multiple school records in a 103-75 win over Ottawa (Ariz.). Her 37 points in 28 minutes off the bench is the most by a CBU freshman in the NCAA-era. Her 10 made 3-pointers is an all-time program record and she also registered seven steals on the defensive end of the court.

"It was really exciting for me," reflected Wu, who shot 13 of 24 from the field and also grabbed three rebounds with one assist.

"Walking into the game, honestly I didn't think I would put up that many points, but I would say it was really easy for me because I had good teammates working with me that could get me the ball when I'm open and everyone was really unselfish and just playing with them is just really fun and everyone has really good court vision so we're able to make the extra pass when someone's open," Wu said.

"For me, I was kind of just playing in the moment, you know, I was enjoying it and whatever was there for me, I took the opportunity," said Wu, who gained a level of comfort with the prolific performance, to be sure.

"I think for me it built a lot of self confidence," she said. "It made me realize that I have the talent and the skills to play at this level and it really made me feel like I could really do this."

Wu managed to stay injury-free and appeared in 29 of 31 games as a freshman, all of them off the bench. She averaged 18.4 minutes, 6.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, while shooting .326 on field goals, .272 on 3-pointers and .667 from the free-throw line.

"I would say my 3-point shooting," said Wu, when asked what she hoped to improve upon most coming into her sophomore campaign. "Last year it was really on and off, so I'm just trying to be really consistent with my threes."

Wu said that the adversity she faced last year came in the form of the daily grind of a longer college basketball season.

"I was blessed to have went through the whole season without any major injuries, but I think for me it was just pushing myself every day at practice to just be the best player I could be and be able to compete with girls that had more experience than me," she said.

With a pair of senior guards slated to complete their eligibility at the conclusion of the season, Wu kept her head down and her eyes on the prize.

"I think for me I just knew that last year there was a couple girls graduating so I realized that I had the opportunity to start, so I really just pushed myself and tried to be the best player that I could be and I really went after the opportunity and I got it, so I'm really glad that all my hard work is paying off," she said.

Wu has parlayed that hard work into a spot in the starting lineup this season, which has gotten off to about as good of a start that the Lancers (10-0 overall, 2-0 WAC) could have hoped for. In fact, it's the best start in program history.

"I feel like there's always room for growth. We definitely have flaws every game that we need to work on, but I think that we have a really solid team. We have a solid starting lineup, we have a solid bench and if I were to get injured, I definitely feel like there's people on the bench that could really step up and take that spot, but I feel like if we keep working and we keep doing what we're doing, we have a really bright future for us," Wu said.

After a 7-0 start last season — including wins over Big West Conference-members Long Beach State, CSUN and UC Santa Barbara — CBU finished the year with a 16-15 overall record. It won its' last three games of the season and posted a 7-9 mark in WAC contests. However, because the Lancers were only a provisional-D1 program in its second year of conference membership, they were not eligible to participate in the WAC Tournament (not that it mattered in the end, as the tournament was nixed due to the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March).

"But we can this year," Wu rebutted.

CBU's 13-game win streak dating back to last season is the fourth-longest current streak in the nation. The only other undefeated teams with double-digit wins are No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 3 North Carolina State, No. 2 Louisville and top-ranked Stanford.

A big reason for the early improvement this year has been the emergence of posts Britney Thomas and Caitlyn Harper, who are averaging a team-leading 15.1 and 12.8 points per game, respectively. The pair have proven to be a nice complement to the backcourt of WAC Preseason Player of the Year, Ane Olaeta (12.7 ppg), along with Nicole Avila-Ambrosi (10.1 ppg) and Wu (8.9 ppg).

"I think that the biggest difference from last year and this year playing-wise, was we didn't have any bigs last year, so it was really difficult for us to really be solid down there, you know, get rebounds, have a big person compete down there with other bigs, but this year we have both our bigs back and we kind of have all five of the spots filled, so I think that we have a really solid team this year," explained Wu, who has started eight of 10 games this season and is averaging 24.7 minutes per contest.

Wu scored 15 points with four assists and three steals — all season-high marks — in a 75-67 win at Pepperdine on Dec. 15.

After a nearly three-week break between games, the Lancers opened up WAC play last weekend with a two-game sweep of Utah Valley. In Friday's 98-69 win over the Wolverines, Wu shot 3 of 5 from behind the arc and 4 of 8 from the field to finish with 13 points, three rebounds and an assist in 22 minutes played. She followed that up with eight points, four steals, two assists and a rebound in 31 minutes of action in Saturday's 62-53 victory.

"They're definitely one of the teams in our league that were going to be difficult for us and so I think that everyone was just able to do their part and we were able to play as a team, move the ball offensively and defensively and I think that we played really well together this past weekend," said a cautiously-optimistic Wu.

She was quick to point out that the Lancers have a long way to go in a lengthy season.

"I would just say for us that 10-0 is great, but it's nothing going into every game. The start of every game it's zero-zero and that's kind of how our mindset is before games and we just need to go after it every game and we can't take any team for granted and we just need to do our thing," Wu said.

The pair of wins over Utah Valley — a team that was picked by conference coaches as the preseason favorite to win the WAC, just ahead of CBU — were huge, to be sure, especially given the fact that the three other conference series were canceled. Furthermore, Dixie State announced earlier this month that it would not be playing the remainder of its schedule.

All of it, of course, due to COVID-19.

But the Lancers — who were picked ahead of the Wolverines to win the WAC in the preseason media poll — have been fortunate thus far, as only one of their games have been affected by the ongoing pandemic.

"As for COVID, we get tested a lot during the week and we're definitely trying to be safe, we're trying to not go around and hang around too much people, so I think that if everyone does their part we can have a good season this year and keep playing more games," Wu noted.

While Wu is looking forward to the team's first trip outside the state of California this weekend for a pair of games at Tarleton State (Stephenville, Texas), she took some time to reflect back upon her time at Iolani, which she holds close to her heart.

"It was great. I honestly miss it every day. I think that the education there, the academics really prepared me for college and I think being able to compete in different sports it really taught me a lot of life lessons that I'm definitely able to use in college," said Wu, who also competed in track and field and one season of JV volleyball for the Raiders.

She added, "It taught me how to overcome failures, teamwork, discipline, how to be patient and how to keep pushing yourself and I think that high school was a really big part of life for me and I really enjoyed it."

Wu and the Lancers play the Tarleton State Texans at 2 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, both times Hawaii. The games can be viewed online at wacdigitalnetwork.com/cbu.

CBU returns home next week to host Chicago State on Jan. 22 and 23. It concludes the regular season with a pair of road games at Seattle University on March 5 and 6 before the WAC Tournament, which will take place Match 10, 12 and 13 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].


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