OIA EAST BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
SB FILE / JANUARY 2005
Okesene Ale Jr. helped lead Kahuku to the OIA title last year. The Red Raiders lost to Iolani in the state title game.
The favorite is hard to determine
Defending champion Kahuku should get all it can handle from perennial power Kalaheo
First of two parts
ASK COACHES for a favorite, and the common reflex is to point across the island.
In the Oahu Interscholastic Association East, which begins league boys basketball play today, there is no face for a frontrunner. The closest the coaches come to naming potential leaders are defending league champion Kahuku and perennial contender Kalaheo.
Teams with a truckload of talent and experience have suffered through nonconference play. Others simply trying to survive could be the symbolic bumps in the road for playoff hopefuls.
The boys, however, play just one round-robin slate. There is no Division II on the boys side.
That means there is little room for error as the regular season tips off tonight.
By most accounts, coaches consider Kahuku's versatile Okesene Ale Jr. as the top player not only in the East, but the entire league. Ale's shooting range expanded to 24 feet in the offseason, and his ability to create scoring opportunities in the paint is matched by few. However, because Kahuku has limited options at point guard, the 6-foot-1 senior is locked into the position, limiting his slashing to the bucket.
"Kahuku has the three big guys, Junior and the two twins," Castle coach Rocky Fraticelli said, referring to brothers Devin and Kevin Unga.
"They're tough. We had a hard time with them."
But Kahuku doesn't have consistent outside shooters other than Ale, making the Red Raiders quite vulnerable, and Kalaheo is poised to regain the OIA crown. But even the Mustangs were erratic through December despite a veteran lineup.
"In the East, there really is a logjam," Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado said.
"It really depends on who does the things they need to do."
Here's a look at the OIA East squads:
On paper: With seven returnees, the Knights are in position to seize a state-tournament berth. The core of returnees saw plenty of action last year, and they cover the entire court.
Alika Kalepodes (6-2) and Scott Argue (6-1) are solid in the low post. Bryce Kalauokaaea (6-1) presents a matchup problem at the 3. Guards Lihikai Domingo and Scott Keiter-Charles are quick and aggressive.
Despite the returning talent, Castle lost all six of its nonconference games. Injuries were a factor, as was illness, and even the winter ball.
Keiter-Charles, a 5-10 junior, runs the offense.
The skinny: The veteran coach, Fraticelli, has revamped the offense. The plethora of missing players has been frustrating. At times, Castle has suited up just seven or eight. Academic probation has been a hurdle, as well. Argue won't be ready to play for a while, Fraticelli added.
Things won't get easier when the Knights host Kailua tonight. "None of our guys has really had a good preseason," Fraticelli said. "I know that we can win some ballgames. I'm not looking at the playoffs. I'm just concerned with starting off against Kailua. We're gonna need to win seven games to make the playoffs."
On paper: The Governors have a host of role players, but lack a standout who can dominate in several areas. That means Silva will do a lot of shuffling to get effective combinations on the court.
Nathan Serdenia, a 5-8 senior guard, has been a bright spot. So has 6-1 junior Elijah Filifili and 6-4 junior Glenn Ernest.
The skinny: Silva kept a large roster, in part, as insurance against potential academic probation. The Govs go through stretches where points are hard to come by, but are also one of the scrappiest teams in the East. At the Punahou Holiday Classic, they bounced back from consecutive losses to edge Punahou II.
Kahuku Red Raiders
On paper: With Ale and the Ungas, sixth-ranked Kahuku could just roll out the basketball and dominate any 3-on-3 competition. However, the Red Raiders need two more teammates to step up and contribute.
The skinny: Kevin Unga, at 6-1 and 222 pounds, is a Division I linebacker of the future. Devin, at 6-1, 201, was a first-team All-State tight end, but is playing with a knee injury that requires an MRI.
The dearth of perimeter shooters is good news for opponents, who have packed the key with zone defenses throughout preseason. Kaulin Krebs is a serviceable 3-point threat. Shiloah Te'o has the potential to become a solid 2-guard, but the 5-11 sophomore will need time to develop.
On paper: This may be the slimmest group of Surfriders basketball players since ... Tim Harrison was a standout player not so long ago. Kailua isn't terribly deep or skilled, but there are enough parts in the shop for Harrison to put together a playoff-contending machine.
Billy Oden, a 5-10 sophomore, has progressed at the point. His improvement runs parallel to Kailua's success. After struggling for most of December, Oden helped lead the Surfriders over eighth-ranked Radford recently.
"That built our confidence a little bit. We're very young and inexperienced," Harrison said.
Zach Akamine and Tim Manghinay, both juniors, solidify the backcourt. Mason Botts, a 6-6 senior, and 6-4 Ryan Naluai give Kailua a pair of long-armed, agile defensive-minded ball swatters.
The skinny: A tough nonconference slate included back-to-back losses to No. 4 Saint Louis and a much-improved Kapolei squad. "We're a defensive team. We're not gonna score a lot of points," Harrison said.
On paper: As usual, the 'Dogs have a combination of low-post talent and 3-point shooting. Kaimuki has been competitive through nonconference play, losing to Hilo 71-70 in the Vikings' tournament three weeks ago.
But Kaimuki lost two of three games against mainland competition at the Walter Wong Classic. Point guard Daniel Colon scored 16 points in a loss to Schurr (Calif.), but committed seven of his team's 28 turnovers.
Thomas Pyo, one of a handful of returnees, is a streaky long-range shooter. At 6-2, he presents a matchup problem, but is not a factor in the low post. Shaun Dela Cazada and Keone Reyes are a pair of powerful 6-1 posts. Dela Cazada has an excellent shooting touch near the basket and is one of the team's best free-throw shooters. Reyes is deceptively quick, but hasn't been consistent from the line.
The skinny: Until Kaimuki begins to take care of the ball against fullcourt pressure, opposing teams will swarm all over the Bulldogs.
On paper: Scott Uehara and Andrew Wingert are part of a deep rotation for Kaiser. Race Chun-Ming, a 6-2 junior, gives the Cougars their best low-post defender.
Kalani Calizar, a 5-7 junior, is another key contributor who played junior-varsity ball last year. Paa Kamauoha will provide rebounding punch as Nagata's sixth man.
The skinny: Nagata, a longtime assistant and JV coach, took over when longtime coach Bryan Almadova retired. Nagata is quite familiar with the newcomers to the varsity team. Kaiser's chemistry is quite good at this point of the season and it showed at the Walter Wong Classic. The Cougars defeated Schurr in a mild surprise.
On paper: The pieces are there -- nine returnees in all -- but nonconference play wasn't indicative of how good this team could become. Chris Tumaneng is one of the most experienced point guards in the East. Marvin Judd is one of the better shooting guards, but his touch has been slow to return since the end of football season.
Center Tyler Caswell, at 6-5, has been hampered by an ankle injury and the flu. This core group is probably the savviest in the East.
The skinny: Tough competition in December has made it hard for Kalaheo to get momentum going. Furtado expected better than an 8-6 nonconference mark, but he knows his team will benefit from the schedule.
"Most of these guys played, which is part of the frustration. But look at the Top 10; five of our losses came against them," he said. In addition, three of Kalaheo's losses came by a total of 10 points.
"We're right there; it's just a matter of little things, shooting better free throws, taking care of the ball better. We just don't have a dynamic go-to player. We have a lot of role players who play hard," he said.
On paper: The longtime Kaimuki assistant is in his first season at the helm with the Falcons. His disciplined, scholarly approach could do the trick for a Kalani program that has been competitive, but playoff-starved for some time.
The skinny: Jonah Letoto, a third-year player, leads a squad that has racked up a healthy number of points so far. Another potential double-digit scorer is Jeff Khaukakoun.
Against Kapolei, one of the West contenders, Kalani amassed 73 points. Problem is, Kapolei scored 89.
On paper: The Tigers have shown improvement over last year. Tilton Kaluna and Ollie Diguc are two components of a balanced McKinley offense.
The skinny: Morikuni has shown before that he doesn't need a whole lot of height to build a highly competitive team. This year's Tiger squad is no exception. One of their closest losses in nonconference play came against a much taller Radford squad.
On paper: Wayne West, a 6-2 junior, is one of the streakiest 3-point shooters in the state. Stevie Austin has been a solid scorer out of the backcourt, but overall, the Menehunes could use more scoring punch from the frontcourt.
The skinny: West tends to settle for the long-range shot, which is good if he's hot. He hit for six 3-pointers in a game last week at the Punahou Holiday Classic.
Roosevelt Rough Riders
On paper: They have seven returnees, but Roosevelt is basically a M*A*S*H unit. Starters Kerstan Ho (6-3) and Kea Keola (6-1) have ankle injuries and will not play in the season opener tonight at McKinley.
Their injuries came just as Chung's team was finally healed up and together for the first time.
Ho hurt his ankle on the opening tip against Pearl City.
"All the bad stuff has already happened, I think. There's no place to go but up," Chung said. "We're hurting, man."
Kila Delivio, a senior point guard, has been steady, Chung said. Guard Jeremy Harvest does the little things.
"He's having a good preseason," Chung noted.
The skinny: "Our shooting offensively, we're having a hard time putting the ball in the hole, shooting about 26 percent from the field. We've been taking good shots and the kids are working hard," Chung said.
On paper: The Sharks are working on basics, unable to scrimmage 5-on-5 due to a lack of numbers. Help is on the way, though. Two players are currently away on vacation and will be back soon, and another is moving to the island with his family this week.
For the first time, the Sharks have a gym to practice in daily. Batoon is enjoying the teaching mode.
"It's Basketball 101. It's a learning process for these kids," he said.
John Keen is the lone returning starter. The 6-5 sophomore will be the go-to scorer, Batoon said. John Collin is a 6-2 sophomore who has potential.
The skinny: The real Sharks squad won't be known until the new arrivals are in place. With the seven players they have, Thompson has a 2-4 nonconference mark with wins over Assets and Christian Academy.
Tomorrow: The OIA West