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Sunday, April 11, 2004



[ MR. BASKETBALL 2004 ]


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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
After an accomplished career at Iolani, Derrick Low is considered by many to be the best player in Hawaii high school basketball history. Next year he'll attend Washington State, where he has already been unofficially named the starting point guard.


The Low Down

After conquering Hawaii high school basketball,
winning three state titles and three Mr. Basketball
awards, Iolani's Derrick Low is looking forward
to a greater challenge -- the Pac-10.


Manhood is just around the corner for Derrick Low.

Hawaii's wonder-boy basketball player will take the test of his life later this year when he suits up as the starting point guard for the Washington State Cougars.

All-State First Team

FORWARD
Jimmy Miyasaka
Kaimuki
6-1 Senior

GUARD
Jeremiah Ostrowski
Punahou
5-9 Freshman

FORWARD
Sam Wilhoite
Kalaheo
6-7 Senior

FORWARD
Kyle Teves
Kealakehe
6-2 Senior

GUARD
Derrick Low
Iolani
6-1 Senior

The Division I college hardwood is where they separate the men from the boys, and he has prepared most of his life for the challenge.

"I don't feel any pressure," a bright-eyed Low said. "I know it's not going to be easy. It's a giant leap from high school to college. I'm not saying I'm going to come in and be like Carmelo Anthony (the former Syracuse star). I know I'll need to adapt to a different atmosphere, but I think I'll be able to adjust well."

But just how far can Low -- the Star-Bulletin's Mr. Basketball for a third year in a row --go? Will his unselfish team approach and uncanny quick-thinking floor presence translate to major success at Washington State?

Those big questions will eventually be answered.

As a three-time state champion point guard for Iolani, the 6-foot-1 Low showcased his all-round ability for four seasons to Hawaii fans. He put on such a show that he is generally regarded by many coaches and former players as the best high school player in the state's history.

"He is such a complete player for being so young," said Cougars assistant Tony Bennett, who is the son of head coach Dick Bennett. "He has all the intangibles --poise, ability to lead his team to wins, confidence. He's strong and quick and physical enough. He can get up to the rim to knock down shots and he's a very good on-the-ball defender. That's all without mentioning his passing, shooting, ballhandling and decision-making ability.

"We're looking at him to be the catalyst and leader who turns us into an excellent high-major basketball program. That's the opportunity he has in front of him, and I hope that when he's done here, we'll all look at what he's done and say 'wow.' That's my vision."

Low has a vision, too: "Sometimes I picture myself in a (college) game situation and visualize doing good things on the court. I see myself making a good pass or hitting a good shot against any Pac-10 school."


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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Star-Bulletin Mr. Basketball Derrick Low of Iolani has benefited from the guidance of his father, Ken Low, at left.


Bennett said Low starting at the point is unofficial because the coaching staff doesn't guarantee starting roles. Even the starters from the previous season have to earn their jobs when they return.

But Bennett has seen Low against top-notch college prospects at camps on the mainland and at the Iolani Classic and said he "holds up."

Low recalled one camp where he was playing the 2-guard spot and got to shoot more than usual.

"And I got to guard this 6-9 swingman," he said. "It was fun, because it's rare for me to be able to do that."

Bennett said defense will be Low's biggest adjustment, because he'll be going up against "some jets."

Low did his homework, watching and videotaping as many Cougars games as he could on TV and dissecting the tapes afterward.

"I want to see him come into the program running, not walking," said Derrick's dad, Ken Low, who has been by his son's side and a nurturing force through all of the youth and high school basketball seasons.

"They (the Cougars) shot horrible some games and were on fire and couldn't miss other games," Derrick Low said about the Washington State contests he got to view last season. "I watched them play a patient offense and work on taking 25 seconds off the shot clock to lessen Arizona's possessions. I watched them run when the opportunity was there and push it up at the right time."

At times, the Raiders liked to slow things down during Low's career, but he enjoys a fast-paced game even better.

"I like a shot clock (which they don't use at Hawaii high schools)," he said. "It quickens the up-and-down pace. On a preseason trip to Italy one year, we played international rules with a shot clock. We averaged 90 points and I was scoring 30 points a game."

Low didn't need to score 30 per game for Iolani, and rarely did he need to score 20. The Raiders played a cerebral game and relied on making the right choices. Derrick provided much of the brain power and he also dictated the pace.

Need a big play? Boom. That's when Low's blood started pumping and he no longer held back. In the state final this year, he hit a key turnaround, fall-away jumper with a defender in his face to keep a determined Kalaheo squad down.

"We'll miss him. He was unbelievable," said Iolani coach Mark Mugiishi, who followed up that sentence by laughing at his understatement. "It's no coincidence he's the player of the year for the third time and we won it all for the third straight time. He did it in different ways every year. The first year, it was by scoring all the points. The second year was by distributing the ball and the third year was by controlling the tempo."


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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Iolani's Derrick Low scored 24 points in the Raiders' 64-54 state title win Feb. 28 against Kalaheo at the Blaisdell Arena.


LOW supported Iolani's hold on Hawaii basketball glory the last few years (he was 101-4 against Hawaii teams in preseason, regular-season and postseason games), but he also needed some support to fall back on -- his dad.

"In our house, I try to reinforce love, positive thinking and personal growth," Ken Low said. "When he comes home, I want him to know he has a comfort zone, even if it's after the worst game he ever played."

New territories are out there to explore, and Derrick is ready for that big test.

He won't have dad right by his side to aid in his campus comfort, but he'll have Dick and Tony Bennett to foster his acclimation to the college game.

One of the reasons Low chose the Cougars is because of the caring attitude the Bennetts have shown.

"Just because I already have (unofficially) the job of starting point guard, I can't say, 'I don't need to work now.' It motivates me to work hard and try to contribute right away. I don't want to let Dick and Tony down."

No matter what Low does, it'll be nearly impossible to let down his dad and a whole state full of basketball fans. He took them on a grand ride already, and they'll surely be watching intently for signs of his collegiate progress and to see if his transition game from boy to man on the court is as smooth as his fast-break passes.


The Star-Bulletin's Dave Reardon contributed to this report.


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First Team

Pos. Player Team Year
Guard Derrick Low Iolani Senior
Guard Jeremiah Ostrowski Punahou Freshman
Forward Sam Wilhoite Kalaheo Senior
Forward Jimmy Miyasaka Kaimuki Senior
Forward Kyle Teves Kealakehe Senior

Second Team

Pos. Player Team Year
Guard Gene Rivera Maui Senior
Guard Ryan Hirata Iolani Senior
Guard Alex Patykula Mililani Senior
Forward Waika Spencer Kamehameha Junior
Forward Todd Blankenship Iolani Senior

Third Team

Pos. Player Team Year
Guard Ranson DeCosta Damien Senior
Guard Theo Fujita Kalaheo Junior
Forward Kyle Pape Iolani Junior
Forward Spencer McLachlin Punahou Freshman
Forward Tevita Finau Kahuku Senior

Honorable Mention

Baldwin: Cody Tesoro, Trenson Himalaya. Campbell: Tristan Bailey. Castle: Louis Mansanas Jr. Iolani: Zach Tollefson, Jon Yasuda. Kahuku: Waika Carvalho, Jarom Casey. Kaimuki: Isaiah Ano, Tone Fa'asoa, Nick Milan, Kekoa Onaga. Kalaheo: Neil Bowers, William Elliott, Matt Nakashima. Kamehameha: Ikaika Hardie, Kawika Hepa. Kapolei: Warren Simanu. Kauai: Va'afuti Tavana. Leilehua: Angelo Massey. Maui: Ronald Belany, Sean Curtis. McKinley: Robert Holder, Kapena Quisano, Abel Werner. Mid-Pacific: Chris Perry. Mililani: Aaron Kanno, Puna Neumann. Moanalua: Joseph Nishimoto, Marquis DuVall, Eric Keys. Nanakuli: James Chandler. Pearl City: Michael Hardy. Punahou: Reid Fowler, Kasey Ko, Brenton Lee. Radford: Tauran Moore. Roosevelt: Danton Balbas. Thompson: Keo Evans-Gonda. University: David Johnson. Waiakea: Abe McGrew, Tyler Nishimura. Waianae: Justin Lafua. Waimea: Jordon Dizon, Jeremy Manuel.

Coach Of The Year

Chico Furtado
Kalaheo


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Wilhoite, Furtado
got Mustangs close


Post Sam Wilhoite, coach Chico Furtado and the rest of the Kalaheo Mustangs gave heavily favored Iolani a scare, and they are being recognized for doing so.

Despite a 64-54 loss to the Raiders in the state final, the Mustangs tied it 47-all late in the third quarter and they trailed by just three with 52 seconds left before succumbing. Not many observers expected a close game.

Wilhoite, who averaged 23.7 points per game in the regular season, was the state's most imposing inside threat and he joins Mr. Basketball Derrick Low of Iolani and three others on the Star-Bulletin All-State first team.

For molding a team of role players around the 6-foot-7 Wilhoite, Furtado is the choice for Coach of the Year. Kalaheo won its fourth straight Oahu Interscholastic Association championship and first under Furtado, who took over for Pete Smith after the 2003 season.

Opposing coaches were left wondering whether they should focus on Wilhoite and get burned by shooting guards Theo Fujita and William Elliott, or vice versa. All the while, the tenacious Kalaheo defense was putting a crimp in their opponents' offensive style.

Wilhoite scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the title game.

"If Kalaheo wins that game, Wilhoite is player of the year," Iolani coach Mark Mugiishi said. "He was a defensive force and he got every rebound they needed. You had to base your entire game plan around defending him."

Mugiishi, who won his fifth state title since 1994, was one of many strong candidates for coach of the year. Bob Morikuni, who led undersized McKinley to a successful showing in the OIA playoffs and state tournament, and Punahou's Greg Tacon, whose team played with passion and togetherness and placed third in the state, were also considered.

Kaimuki's Jimmy Miyasaka and Kealakehe's Kyle Teves join Wilhoite in the first-team front court.

A 6-1 swingman, Miyasaka had a soft outside shooting touch and showed his limitless hustle and savvy leadership for the Bulldogs. He could also rebound successfully while tangling with the state's bigger boys.

A powerful inside player, Teves was the Big Island's player of the year, leading the Waveriders to an undefeated regular season and a strong showing at the states. They came within a whisker of beating Interscholastic League of Honolulu power Kamehameha in the fifth-place game.

Buffanblu freshman Jeremiah Ostrowski is the first team's other guard. Simply put, he made Punahou go.

"He's silky smooth and, like Derrick, he makes all the right decisions," said Mugiishi, who added that Ostrowski's all-around talent compares favorably to where Low was at this point in his high school career.

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