HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Hannemann introduces Hawaii’s hoops team
For any prep girls basketball fan, it was nirvana.
A dozen hoopsters running drills, scrimmaging in 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 groups in the sanctity of Iolani School's air-conditioned gym on a brutally hot summer day outside.
The setting was special enough without a doubt. Before the workout, Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced the birth of Team Aloha, a girls all-star team that will travel to Indiana next month to play in the Adidas Fall Finish tournament.
Shawna-Lei Kuehu, the two-time Star-Bulletin Player of the Year, is a veteran of national competition. She can't get enough.
"It's kinda cool knowing you're representing Hawaii with all these people," said Kuehu, who was third in scoring at the Nike Elite national tournament last month.
The 12-player team is composed of Jazzmin Awa-Williams (Konawaena), Nicole Fu (Maryknoll), Courtney Gaddis (Kalani), Keisha Kanekoa (Honokaa), Shaena-Lyn Kuehu (Punahou), Shawna-Lei Kuehu (Punahou), Ashley Medcalf (Christian Academy), Iwalani Rodrigues (Roosevelt), Chelsie Sato (McKinley), Jamie Smith (Iolani), Vicky Tagalicod (Hilo) and Analee Viena-Lota (Kamehameha),
Coach Dana Takahara-Dias guided Moanalua to a pair of Oahu Interscholastic Association championships (1992 and '93) before retiring from the floor to become an athletic director. She is now deputy director of Parks and Recreation. For Hannemann, she was a natural fit for the Team Aloha coaching mantle.
The team is a gem in the eyes of Hannemann.
"With sports, politics, education, we have the best of the best in Hawaii. We don't have to take a back seat to anybody," he said.
The squad is a byproduct, in many ways, of the annual jamboree Hannemann began 13 years ago, inviting top high school players to compete in an all-star event with former college players. The jamboree grew over the years and continues to be a one-of-a-kind event, drawing players from across the state for a full day of games.
Team Aloha's process involved media voting, but was ultimately determined by Team Aloha's selection committee, including Takahara-Dias.
For all 12 players, all expenses are covered. The Hawaii High School Athletic Association is paying for up to 75 percent of the costs. That's a big plus for many of the players.
Awa-Williams would not have gone if it were a pay-to-play scenario.
"My mom got the e-mail and told me, 'Oh my God! You're going to the mainland. And it's all paid for,'" she said.
Even in the process of creating something to benefit girls sports, though, not everything has gone smoothly. Shanadee Canon of Kalaheo, an all-state guard, was not named to the team, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado.
There is no denying, however, that Team Aloha is another benchmark for girls basketball in Hawaii.
Moments after the team was introduced, the team headed right into its first practice. Takahara-Dias was in her element, never mind being out of the game for a number of years.
"Isn't it wonderful," she asked players in the midst of exhausting drills, "to be back with a basketball in your hands?"
She easily could have been asking that question of herself. The answer is a clear, concise "yes."