Ladrido Keeps Up HPU Pace

The unrelenting pace point guard Melody Ladrido maintains on the basketball court was ingrained in her long ago. With her Hawaii Pacific University teammates on the verge of an NCAA tournament berth last weekend, Ladrido was showing no sign of slowing.

“I’ve always played at a fast pace,” said Ladrido, a senior from Vallejo, Calif. “Even (HPU assistant) Coach Tiffany Wilson tells me to slow down and take a second off. It’s just what I’m familiar with.”

Since she first burst onto the local college basketball scene like a meteor three years ago, Ladrido has been instant energy for the Sea Warriors. It’s one of the reasons she is still coming off the bench and not in the starting lineup. Even so, Ladrido is the leading scorer at 16.4 points per game and is logging 27.9 minutes per outing. She’s also hitting on 42 percent of her 3-point attempts.

“I love coming in off the bench,” she said. “I like being that extra spark – the one who helps us stay at a consistent pace.”

HPU (18-6 overall) entered last weekend’s PacWest tournament in Los Angeles seeded seventh in the Western Region. It must finish in the top eight in this week’s poll to punch its ticket for the Division II national tournament. (According to one source, HPU needed only to win its conference tournament opener late last Friday to ensure a final seeding in the West of eighth or better.)

HPU head coach Reid Takatsuka, a lifelong Kailua resident, was recently named PacWest Coach of the Year.

For her part, Ladrido is looking for the right ending to what already has been a solid college career. Her senior year was the most rewarding, however, as the team has developed into a much more cohesive unit.

“The chemistry is different because it is a different team from last year, but we’ve really played well together,” she said. “Coach has made more of a family atmosphere here, and when you have those kinds of relationships with each other, it brings you even closer.”

To those who knew her when she was a standout at Vallejo Senior High, it’s no surprise that she chose HPU.

“I’ve loved it here,” said Ladrido, who takes classes on the Windward campus. “It’s completely different from high school. It’s been a great experience and something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m living my dream right now. I actually wanted to go to a school in Hawaii.”

Ladrido and teammate Paris Gravely have played together since they were competing on youth traveling all-star teams. It was then that she decided a scholarship might be within her reach.

“I was surrounded by basketball – my sister and brother and father had played,” Ladrido said. “Playing in college was always a dream. When I used to play on travel teams, the coaches always put it into our heads that playing basketball was a great way to go to college, and that if we kept going and kept working, it could happen.”

HPU’s last NCAA tournament appearance was in 2009-10, the year before Ladrido arrived on campus. The Sea Warriors were the top seed in the PacWest conference tournament, so a return trip would seem within reach.

“Making the tournament would be the perfect ending, but we’re just taking it one game at a time right now,” Ladrido said.