HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Former Kamehameha and UH standout Nani Cockett made a no-look pass past current Punahou star Shawna-Lei Kuehu during a semifinal at Mufi Hannemann's Basketball Jamboree.
Sharing in the showcase
Many top girls hoops players -- past and present -- compete at the annual jamboree
Just 14 hours after facing off against each other for a state title, Punahou's Shawna-Lei Kuehu and Roosevelt's Iwalani Rodrigues met up again. But this time, they could share a few laughs along the way.
Some of the best past, present and future girls basketball players from the state laced it up for the 13th annual Mufi Hannemann Basketball Jamboree on Saturday at Manoa Valley Recreation Center. More than 250 players participated in three divisions, with the Prep-Collegiate division as the premier event.
In her first time at the Jamboree, Rodrigues' Team Sales, coached by Waialua's Michelle Sales, lost to Kuehu's Team Mann in the first round of the eight-team tournament 59-41. But the Roosevelt sophomore was all smiles after her game.
"I thought this was a good experience. It was fun," Rodrigues said. "You play with all kinds of different people. You get to know other people, watch their game, take notes. It's pretty good. I like it."
The Jamboree started in 1994 with just two teams. It has since expanded into an all-day event with 24 teams playing in 21 games, spanning the age spectrum from 12 and under to well-seasoned college veterans.
Participating as a player and coach, Kahuku coach Valerie Anae played in the inaugural Jamboree. And the changes, she said, have been very positive.
"What I see is that it's so much better that they mixed the teams," Anae said. "There's way more camaraderie. And it should be like this, especially after the state tournament."
"And some of the girls that maybe lost out early in the playoffs get an opportunity to show their skills."
For Christian Academy's Ashley Medcalf, the opportunity to play with the best players in the state was invaluable.
"It's good because instead of playing against just D-II girls that are kind of less competitive, it's really helped me to step up and show me maybe what college would be like," the junior standout said of her first Jamboree.
Having never played for a club team, Medcalf was also able to bond more with the other top players in the state, while also showing off her talent as a scoring machine. She helped lead Team Honma to the final of the Prep-Collegiate division before falling to Team Faasoa 49-44.
Honolulu Mayor Hannemann said he began the event, "because I felt women's athletics was not getting the attention and respect that it deserved."
For her contribution to her team and the advancement of girls basketball, Honokaa coach Daphne Honma was awarded this year's Gender Equity Award.
"What's really nice is that some of these girls now have gone full circle," Hannemann said.
Many past prep stars who played in the early days of the tournament and went on to successful collegiate careers continue to come back every year, including former University of Hawaii players Nani Cockett, Lynette Liu and Milia Macfarlane.
"It builds morale and builds confidence among the girls," said Macfarlane, who graduated last week from UH and teaches kindergarten at Kapalama Elementary School. "It's just overall a positive experience. It's such a nice thing to come back to."
And with the addition of four local collegiate women's basketball programs starting up this fall, the opportunity for young women to continue their education through basketball increases.
"That's what this thing is all about," Hannemann said. "Sports is one thing, but also demonstrating to women that sports, or the game of basketball, is not just a guy thing."