HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
PAUL HONDA / PHONDA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kahuku's Okesene Ale Jr. gets some of his inspiration from his two older sisters, who starred for the Red Raiders before going on to play college sports.
On center stage
Whether it's on the basketball court or in school, Ale always excels
t's just another busy stretch of days for Okesene Ale Jr.
On Thursday, up at 5 a.m. for bible study, the normal morning routine. The usual day of classes, including AP statistics and calculus. By afternoon, Ale leads the senior class in a rehearsal for the annual song fest.
By evening, he is on his favorite stage, the hardwood floor of Kahuku's Thomas Walker Gym, where the Red Raiders earn a win over the tough Moanalua Menehunes and clinch the top seed in the OIA East.
Up early the next morning, it's the song fest -- a competition between the four grade levels at Kahuku. Ale is the maestro, conducting and cajoling a brilliant performance from his senior class. They sing five songs, including Luther Vandross' "Dancing with my Father" gracefully, powerfully.
A school dance follows late into the night. By Saturday afternoon, weary and sniffling with runny noses, the Red Raiders board the bus for a trip to Roosevelt. Kahuku loses the game, as well as some momentum as the playoffs loom ahead.
But the week, three games in all, was about as busy as it gets for seniors like Ale in the classroom, in extra-curricular activities and his first love, basketball.
"He's a treat, a pleasure to watch," coach Nathan James said. "He does it the right way, tactful, the way he treats other people."
At 23 points per game, Ale is far from a one-dimensional player. He can play any position on the floor, and his 3-point range expanded to NBA territory in the offseason.
When sixth-ranked Kahuku (17-6) takes the court tonight against Campbell in the OIA semifinals, it is likely that Ale will provide yet another golden moment.
Wherever he goes, the humming follows. 'Sene, Junior, June, Ale -- everything his family and friends call him -- can't stop himself. On the phone, during a photo shoot, shooting baskets, jogging to the park, it doesn't matter. There's music in his mind, a rhythm to his step, to his train of thought.
Everything he has succeeded at has originated from a plan. That's why, at 5 a.m. on summer days, Ale was busy lacing up his running shoes. In a three-day rotation, he would work on speed, endurance and explosion.
Day 1 involved a half-mile run from his home in Hauula to Kakela Beach Park. As the sun rose, Ale sprinted in the parking lot -- for 30 minutes. Then a run back home.
Day 2 was family day. Ale often would meet with cousin Camilla Ah-Hoy, Kahuku's All-State volleyball player, and auntie Mona Ah-Hoy, the Lady Raiders' volleyball coach, at the track next to Canon Activities Center. A mile run, some cool-downs, some ladders. When Oregon State defensive back Al Afalava, another cousin, came down, they ran relentlessly.
"Al, he knows ladders like the back of his hand. That's the thing about our family, we love to work together, and our parents work with us," Ale said.
Day 3, plyometrics.
"There's a wooden platform, 3, 4 feet high. I'd go 2 feet up, come down," he said of the plan designed by assistant coach Wayne Keys.
The three-day rotation was limited to mornings. Each day, at noon, Ale lifted weights at Moa Mahe's house for an hour. First day, chest and shoulders. Second day, triceps and biceps. Third day, legs and back.
By 3:30 p.m. every day, he went to the Brigham Young-Hawaii gym for pickup ball.
"Paul Peterson, Danny Jackson and Thomas Watkins. They showed me how to come off picks, use a tight curl, moves like that. Some sneaky moves," he said.
By late afternoon, Ale was home.
"Usually, chores come first, but for me, that came last. Spend time with my family and take care of my grandma," he said.
Sometimes, Ale played more hoops at the old gym behind Canon.
"I play basketball with my brother (Vernon) when he's done with work. He's my hero, man," he said. "He's so humble. He teaches me not so much through talk, but with his actions. I believe in the saying: 'actions speak louder than words.' "
Some of those actions have led to a 3.6 grade-point average. Other acts, like his decision to help the volleyball team, were monumental. Ale passed up his senior season in the sport to concentrate on basketball training. However, Kahuku lost half of its team following the OIA playoffs. Ale returned to help lead the team to a third-place finish at the state tourney.
"Junior Boy," which is what his parents call him, faced an uphill battle every day of his youth. Growing up with two prominent sisters was never easy, but it made for healthy competition. Oldest sister Monarisa, now a volleyball player at Utah State, was an All-State player in two sports. Aisha, who graduated last June, was a quick power forward who went to Hutchinson Junior College (Kan.).
"I look up to them. I want to follow in their footsteps. They went to college and set an example for me. That's what we've been doing since we were little, just competing against each other and getting better," said Ale, whose lanky build made him perfect fodder for his sisters on the basketball court.
"They beat me all the time. They were just quick. Aisha was too strong; I was just a skinny fool. She'd pound me in the post. And Mona was too quick. She'd just go around me," said Ale, who doesn't get pushed around any more. "I started beating them around my junior year."
MIDWAY through an elimination game with Leilehua, the Red Raiders are struggling. Big Clayton Laurel, at 6-foot-5, towers over Kahuku. He hits a pair of close-range buckets and Leilehua is ahead 25-21 in the third quarter.
Right on cue, Ale comes to life. The 6-1 scorer drives the baseline for a deuce. He takes a pass from Shiloah Te'o and swishes a 3-pointer. Seconds later, Kevin Unga feeds Ale for a reverse layup. In a span of 90 seconds, Ale has scored seven points in a row. Kahuku has the lead for good.
In all, Ale scores 26 points and grabs 11 rebounds. In an era when the average public-school team shoots barely over 50 percent from the free-throw line, Ale makes all 12 of his tries.
Kahuku basketball isn't poetic, but all the blue-collar work on the glass is unmatched.
"I credit the Ungas," he said of Kevin and Devin, who have football scholarships to Oregon State in hand. "They have full rides to go Pac-10, and they could've been preparing themselves, but they're playing basketball, and I'm grateful for that."
Beyond the state tournament, Ale has a plan. Already equipped with video-editing skills, he has sent his DVD to six Division I schools. BYU is among the programs he wants to play for, but he's keeping an open mind. And his dream schools remain a secret.
ALE MOVED to Utah at 9, returned a year later when a great-grandmother died. He went back to Utah after fifth grade, but four years later came a turning point. His grandfather, Kesi Afalava, died.
"His death brought our whole family together. His kids were all in Utah, so everyone moved back to Hawaii. So now everyone's here. Every Sunday, we have get-togethers. Al's family, Camilla's family, my family, we all just come down," Ale said.
His dad, Okesene Sr., is an electrical engineer. Mom Stella works at the Laie Foodland.
Ale isn't alone on campus either; youngest sister Maxine is a junior.
He puts it all together with a video camera, highlight videos of Al and Aisha, even birthday videos. It's about memories for Ale.
"I love the mind. I'm a mind man. I wish I could take psychology, but my counselor gave me humanities," he said. "I believe in how the mind works. It's hard to explain."
No explanation is necessary. His actions speak louder than words.