Monday, July 19, 1999
By Craig Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Kanoe Kamana'o hopes to put what she learned
at the Olympic Training Center to good use by
leading Iolani to a state title.
The 13-year-old was one ofBy Cindy Luis
just two dozen in her age group
chosen for a camp at the
Olympic Training Center
Breakfast. Practice. Break. Practice. Lunch. Practice. Break. Practice. Dinner. Pratice Sleep.
It may not be everyone's ideal summer vacation but, for someone who is happy to live volleyball 24 hours a day, the above schedule is just perfect.
Such was the case for Kanoe Kamana'o, one of 24 athletes chosen to attend the Olympic Training Center's developmental camp early this month in Colorado Springs, Colo. The two dozen athletes were picked out of an original pool of 640 players, ages 13 to 15, who were being scouted during the recent USA Junior Nationals volleyball championships.
The 13-year-old Kamana'o, an incoming freshman at Iolani School, was overwhelmed by her selection. At 5-foot-7, she was one of the shortest players on the court; the majority were 6-feet and taller.
"I felt so honored to go there, with all those talented players," said Kamana'o, who trained along side the U.S. women's national team on adjacent courts. "It was great. We had coaches from Switzerland, Puerto Rico ... all over the world.
"I think the most important thing I learned was how to be a better passer and about staying low (when passing on defense). At the training center, I met some of the (national team) players and I saw what it is they have to go through to make it. I want to do that. My goal right now is to be on the U.S. junior national team, work my way up through the ranks and go to the Olympics to represent my country."
Kamana'o has a good start. She was the setter for the Asics Rainbow 14s team that won the 14-and-under open title at the junior nationals at New Orleans.
The Hawaii team was top-seeded all through the tournament, going 10-1 while dropping just three sets (21-3). In the third round against City Beach Black of Palo Alto, Calif. -- the team Asics would eventually beat for the title -- the Hawaii team won, 15-4, 15-0.
Kamana'o served for 15 straight points in the second set.
"We weren't surprised that she (Kanoe) was chosen," said Asics teammate Puna Richardson, a 5-11 middle who is an incoming freshman at Punahou School.
"Kanoe works hard and she deserves it."
"Kanoe is a really good setter," said teammate Crystal Ueno, an outside hitter who is also an incoming freshman at Punahou. "She is quick and aggressive."
Kamana'o also has a 26-inch vertical jump, impressive for an athlete her age. And very good genes.
Her father -- Dal, a 1972 Kalani High graduate -- was a setter for the Falcons under Hall of Famer Jon Stanley. Cousin Cory is on the UH men's team. Sister Kuulei will be a senior on the varsity at Kamehameha Schools this year.
"What I like about Kanoe is her attitude," her father said. "She's a great kid who works very hard."
Tani Martin, a Kaiser graduate who played at Washington, has watched Kanoe Kamana'o come up through the Asics ranks.
"She's very athletic," said Martin. "And she's very comfortable with what she and her body can do at this age. Her movements are very comparable with seniors in high school and even college players. I saw Robyn (Ah Mow, former Wahine all-American setter) at this age and Kanoe is more aggressive at this age, maybe a little more comfortable with herself at this age than Robyn was. And Robyn is an unbelievable athlete.
"I've watched Kanoe play against other international players of the same age and she clearly outplayed them. ... Every coach who has seen her says, 'Wow, and she isn't even in high school yet.' "
Those familiar with the Asics program consider her a definite college and international prospect. Besides her outstanding vertical jump, most remark on the exceptional ball-handling skills, maturity, leadership, court awareness and work ethic that sets her apart.
"She has the dedication that's needed and the ability to be good down the road," said Jessica Sudduth, a Wahine junior hitter who has worked camps Kamana'o has attended.
Kamana'o was the setter for Iolani's intermediate team that lost to Punahou for the ILH title. That loss has motivated Kamana'o for this season, to help her school do something it has never done before. To win a state title.
Kamana'o has set her sights on playing volleyball at UCLA and becoming an optometrist, just like her mentor and family friend, Chris Yamamoto. At just 13, her focus is already pretty clear.