HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Mystery surrounds Kaimuki, Radford
Grant faces new challenge with champion Bulldogs
STORY SUMMARY »
Unknown is the key word for the boys and girls teams ranked seventh in the Star Bulletin preseason high school basketball top-10 poll.
Reigning state champion Kaimuki lost all-state forwards Keone Reyes and Beau Albrechtson and will have a new look as it tries to defend its back-to-back OIA titles.
On the girls side, first-year coach Tani Dutro leads a Radford team that does have four returning starters, including forwards Marlena Malepeai and Brittini Fuller.
How well the Bulldogs jell as a unit and the Rams understand Dutro's new defensive scheme will determine how well each team fares.
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It's back to square one for Kaimuki coach Kelly Grant.
The reigning state champion and two-time OIA champion Bulldogs have been the cream of the crop, but this year will be the fourth-year head coach's biggest test.
Top 10 Countdown
With boys high school basketball season approaching, the Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10, as determined in a poll of coaches and media members:
Eighty percent of Kaimuki's offense in the state championship graduated, including Star Bulletin player of the year Keone Reyes and Beau Albrechtson, who is now playing for Hawaii.
Starting guards Daniel Colon and Brandon Madamba, who both came up big in the tournament, have graduated as well, leaving Grant coaching basically a whole new team.
"These guys need to learn just how to play basketball," he said. "I definitely have to do way more coaching this year."
Grant has brought instant success to the Bulldogs, compiling a 68-17 record during his first three seasons as head coach.
He has been able to rely on one or two guys to carry the load in the past, but the success of this year's team depends on getting contributions from the entire team.
"This year, we need to have seven or eight guys learn to play within themselves," Grant said. "Individually, we have one-on-one players who are probably at the top of the list, but being cohesive is another story."
2006-07 record: 26-8 (11-5 OIA Red)
On paper: Seven seniors graduated from last year's team, including four starters from the state-title game against Punahou. Senior Makalii Nahinu (6-foot-1) is the lone returning starter and will anchor a front line that includes 6-foot senior Chauncey Nicola.
Junior Ryan Kakitani and senior Chezz Ramos-Dias should provide some scoring punch at the guard positions. Desmond Tautofi wasn't used much last year, but played a very impressive 5-minute stretch against the Buffanblu, and could be a surprise this year.
The skinny: Between football season running late and a flu bug that kept Grant away from the team for more than a week, the Bulldogs have gotten a late start to the season.
"(Wednesday) was our first real practice," Grant said. "We hadn't even worked on defense until (Wednesday)."
The talent is there, as Kakitani, Nicola and Nahinu will all get a chance to carry the load and step out of the shadow of Reyes and Albrechtson.
For the Bulldogs to win, especially early, at least one of them will have to step up every game and make a big impact.
X-factor: Albrechtson and Reyes carried almost all of the rebounding load for the past two years, and Grant is worried about his team's ability on the boards.
"We are definitely going to have to be able to block out," Grant said. "We have jumpers on the team, but we don't have the weight we had last year."