Galdeira’s impending school choice raises questions about recruiting
This isn't your mama's game anymore.
In fact, the world of girls basketball continues to evolve in the islands, so much so that it's not just colleges that try to establish position with the top prospects.
Dozens upon dozens of Hawaii's high school hoopsters move on to play the college game, and the effect of competition for talent is trickling down to the lower levels. In fact, two Big Island eighth-graders have drawn more attention than any two pre-teen players since the Kuehu twins, Shawna-Lei and Shaena-Lyn, went to Punahou as ninth-graders.
One is Dawnyelle Awa, daughter of Konawaena coach Bobbie Awa. The other is Emalia "Lia" Galdeira of Waimea.
While Awa is destined to play for her mom and dad, Donald Awa, at Konawaena, Galdeira's future is up in the air.
Galdeira, at 5-foot-6, is a slasher with excellent instincts on both ends of the floor. Rumors swirled around Oahu about her talent, but whether she is being recruited by one or more schools depends on the definition of "recruit."
Punahou, which won the state crown in '05 and '06, hasn't made official contact with Lia Galdeira, but is aware of her through a supporter of the program. Galdeira's father, Kunia Galdeira, said that longtime youth coach Dennis Agena, founder of the Kalakaua Foundation Basketball Clinic, put on a clinic at Honokaa recently. Agena is not part of Punahou's coaching staff, but is a supporter.
"He was the one who kind of was interested in Emalia coming to Punahou. He wanted us to really think about it," Kunia Galdeira said. "No. 1, it would be her taking the test to see if she qualifies or not, and also, finding a place for her to stay. That's the hardest part. I don't have anybody as yet who I can trust."
In the eyes of longtime coaches, like former Honokaa boys guru Cheyenne Meyer, it is plain-old recruiting.
"If he's asking her to go there because of basketball, I think that's wrong. He wasn't the guy working with her all these years, but if it's about education, that's different," he said. "Maybe he's recruiting for somebody else. If there's no consequences, it's gonna happen all the time. If she goes to Punahou, I guess the rich get richer. That's like the Yankees, with all the resources, they can get whoever they want. When those things happen, it gets tougher for the small public schools."
However, simply asking a student-athlete about her future plans is certainly within protocol, former Kalaheo girls hoops coach Chico Furtado said.
"Here the fine line that comes in is, it's not recruiting, but I think there's some influence there. To some degree, part of recruiting is influence," said Furtado, who still coaches the boys team at Kalaheo. "The bottom line is, it sounds like Punahou has been very active with bringing athletes into the school, and there's nothing wrong with that if they're good fits."
Punahou coach Mike Taylor hasn't seen Galdeira play, but said that he has heard about her. He was clear to point out that he has never spoken with Galdeira or her family.
"If any student-athlete is interested in our school, they have to make first contact," Taylor said.
Maryknoll girls coach Bobby Samson, who is a teacher at Campbell, thinks it shouldn't really matter.
"Why would the ILH say they don't ask anybody to come to their schools? Any parent would feel flattered if a private school asked for their son or daughter to come to their school. As far as private schools go, everybody recruits. I don't know why they say that like it's a dirty word," he said.
"Even if I'm talking to you, saying, come to Maryknoll, we have a great English program. That's how you get players. That's how you get students. Unfortunately, the big schools have created such an imbalance, but I don't think they're doing anything wrong. If a school offers financial aid or call it what you want, it's still the same thing. I don't see anything wrong with that."
Punahou, which won state titles in 2005 and '06, is in the picture, to say the least. But the Interscholastic League of Honolulu has been stringent in recent years about the slightest hint of recruiting. More than two years ago, then-Damien baseball assistant coach Terry Derby was suspended for a season after asking some former youth-league players of his about their possible interest in the school.
Derby never denied talking to the players, but sat out one year and was later hired as head coach at Damien. He's taken a cautious approach to talking with youth players since.
Konawaena, which is located 52 miles from Galdeira's hometown, is also a possibility. While Galdeira is familiar with Konawaena's coaches and is a good friend of Dawnyelle Awa, Kunia Galdeira says there is no way to know where his daughter will attend school next year.
Hawaii Prep and Kamehameha's Oahu campus are possibilities, too.