Coach Watanabe and Waiakea golf team get aloha from Garden Isle
Ken Watanabe is a seasoned golf coach, but the Garden Island native has never had a season like the one that just ended.
As the girls golf coach at Waiakea, he knew his Big Island team had potential, even with a plethora of youth. But when his team's van was burglarized during a preseason trip to Oahu, Watanabe found something else that no book about coaching could ever prepare him for.
Watanabe found support from, of all places, the place where he grew up: Kauai. When news of the theft of nine sets of golf clubs spread across the islands, help came from many hands. Within a month, nearly $4,000 was raised through donations and eventually, all the missing clubs were replaced.
"Wow, it was that much? We didn't know," freshman Britney Yada said. "It feels special. We never realized how many people cared and wanted to help."
Watanabe was equally stunned.
"It's surprising, but comforting, that so many people supported the team," said Watanabe, who graduated from Kauai High School in 1990. "The majority (of donations) came from the Big Island and Kauai. That made me feel really good that people remembered me."
It is not as though Watanabe is happy-go-lucky when the team travels now.
"It took several weeks to get back to normal," he said. "I was paranoid, even back on the Big Island. We'd go to Waikoloa, and I'm checking the (van) locks over and over and over."
When the Warriors returned to Oahu for the recent David S. Ishii/HHSAA State Championships, Watanabe's worries returned moments after the team landed in Honolulu.
"We came in and it was almost like deja vu. We landed with five of our (golf) bags, and four were missing," he said.
Fortunately, for the Warriors, the bags were located in Hilo and put on another airline. They landed shortly after the team arrived in Honolulu, leaving Watanabe with a big smile and a lot of relief.
The players never really knew how much was raised for the new clubs or where the donations came from. All they knew was that they could get new clubs -- in some cases, better ones -- after the disappointment of being victimized by thieves.
"They were pretty much excited. They were anxious to get the new clubs," Watanabe said. "Aside from becoming closer and more supportive of each other, they're learning that life has its ups and downs, and that you have to bounce back.
"Things can be replaced. Clubs are uniquely attached to the individual, but they can be replaced. Your life is more important."
Cockett comparison: She walked gingerly down the sideline once the games were done.
Long after her glory days at Kamehameha and the University of Hawaii have passed, Nani Cockett still plays like a champion. The 13th annual Mufi Hannemann Jamboree gave current and former high school players the chance to play together, and Cockett starred once again on a tournament-winning team.
The Jamboree, as has been the case in recent years, was played the day after the girls state championships. Shawna-Lei Kuehu of Punahou impressed fans at the tourney with an outstanding performance that included a record 37-point effort in the championship win over Roosevelt.
Cockett is considered by many to be the finest high school player in Hawaii's girls basketball history. Comparisons, naturally, abound when it comes to Kuehu, a 5-foot-9 sophomore.
"I wasn't a big scorer like Shawna," Cockett said between games, modestly deflecting her status as possibly the best ever.
When it comes to styles, however, Cockett compared Kuehu to Brandy Richardson -- a cousin of Cockett -- who powered Kalaheo in the late 1990s.
It's too early, really, to make a good comparison, but the fact that fans are debating says much about Kuehu. It also says a whole lot about Cockett, who helped the Rainbow Wahine draw crowds in excess of 6,000.
Menehunes hire Linoz: In the three years since coach Jon Kobayashi stepped down as Waimea football coach -- he is now the school's athletic director -- Kauai High emerged as the KIF's new football powerhouse.
Following the departure of Liko Pereira, only two applicants stepped up for the vacant position. The school chose Kyle Linoz, a former assistant who worked with quarterbacks and defensive backs. Teddy Arroyo, a former varsity assistant and junior varsity head coach, was the other applicant.