Maiki Viela's freshman season for the Gonzaga women's basketball team was unfamiliar territory.
The 2011 Lahainaluna High School graduate was a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year. She led the Lunas to the only Division I basketball state title in Maui Interscholastic League history as a junior, and as a senior she was the first Parade Magazine All-American in any MIL sport.
Her legacy in Lahaina is cemented in the minds of anyone who watched her dribble upcourt faster than almost all opponents could run.
Maiki Viela played in 11 games for Gonzaga last season, totaling 20 points, five assists and 11 turnovers in 52 minutes.
Torrey Vail photo
Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said he thinks Maiki Viela “is the one point guard on our roster who is comfortable and has the ability to make plays in the open court at a fast pace.”
Torrey Vail photo
Then, through a harsh winter in Spokane, Wash., she played in just 11 games for a 28-6 team that advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
"I think the whole year was a learning process," Viela said from her living room in Lahaina while on a two-week trip home earlier this month. "From the beginning, it was a little tough, but as the season went along things got better."
Her lessons were many as she averaged just 1.8 points per game in 52 minutes, with five assists and 11 turnovers.
"The pace of the game, things are just a lot faster," said Viela, the second Parade honoree in team history. "Everybody is stronger, quicker, so you just have to adjust. Coming from Hawaii and going up there, it is definitely something you have to get used to."
Viela is seeking more playing time, but Gonzaga's two returning starters are guards.
"A lot of that depends on Maiki," Bulldogs coach Kelly Graves said Tuesday via telephone. "We are obviously going to play those players who make us better and I think Maiki has the potential to be a terrific player and really help us."
Viela's best game came against St. Francis on Jan. 1, when she had five points and two assists.
"I think as a freshman, she just wasn't quite ready to play at the level we were at - a Sweet 16 team level - and she was competing with two upperclassmen," Graves said. "Our transfer from Kansas State (Taelor Karr) ended up leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio."
Graves said that both players in front of Viela "were just physically stronger. Sometimes as a freshman, unless you are just extremely talented, it is tough to come in an figure all that out."
Viela said sitting on the bench "was different, something to get used to, but I learned a lot. I saw what it takes at this level. I have basically been just getting in the weight room and lifting, playing as much as I can. During summer school, we were always in the gym."
The Bulldogs averaged 75.1 points per game last season, 10th in the nation, and Viela's knack for that tempo has gained notice.
"I think she is the one point guard on our roster who is comfortable and has the ability to make plays in the open court at a fast pace, which is what we like to do," Graves said.
Viela said she is ready to meet the challenges ahead.
"I have gained, like, five pounds this summer lifting and I think I am as strong as I have ever been," she said. "They want me pushing the ball, get the ball up the court as soon as possible, and just commanding the offense. That is definitely like Lahainaluna right there."