HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
No. 4 Moanalua no longer a sleeper
They may be the most unfamiliar fourth-ranked team in recent history.
Na Menehune of Moanalua aren't coming off a state title year, or even a league championship. Still, with Star-Bulletin All-State guard Stevie Austin commanding the troops on the floor and veteran coach Greg Tacon drawing up new strategies, coaches and media pegged Moanalua at No. 4 in the Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Preseason Top 10.
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:
5. Saint Louis
"I know that we are not the underdog like last year, when we were trying to make the state tournament for the first time in 10 years," Tacon said. "Teams will always give us their best shot, so we have to be focused on our effort every game."
Moanalua (4-3) has losses so far to Iolani (57-51 and 59-45) and Mililani (61-59). While Tacon can rely on uber-quick Austin and several returnees, they are mired in a tier of quality teams. Until Na Menehune secure a win over the likes of a traditional state powerhouse like Iolani, they are one of the best of the rest.
This could be the year when Moanalua changes that status.
"It's much easier said than done," Tacon said. "Basketball is the ultimate team game. Learning to share the ball and being responsible on the defensive side are keys to everyone's team. Those actions are not developed overnight.
"We can potentially do it, but it will take time. With the players we have coming back and having Stevie a year older and stronger, I understand why people would pick us that high. But this is a different season and this year's squad must learn how to play with one another."
2006-07 record: 19-16 (10-5 OIA Red).
On paper: Austin has few peers across the state with his defensive reflexes and offensive savvy. He averaged 16 points, 3.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds and four steals per game as a junior.
"He's a do-everything guard with exceptional quickness. Stevie is they key to everything we do on both sides of the court," Tacon said.
Senior guard Josh Kure is also back. The 6-foot-1 lefty averaged 11.4 points per game and stretched defenses with his 3-point stroke.
"He will have to take on a larger role for us this season. He can score in bunches and has tons of potential," Tacon said.
Kure showed flashes of offensive success during the James Alegre Invitational over the weekend. He has the size and strength to drive to the basket and draw fouls, and his ability to get to the foul line could become a key factor.
Ryan Hua, a 6-foot forward, is a reliable hub in Moanalua's offense. A.J. Kirkman (6-2), Shawn Richey (6-3) and Maurice Allen (6-6) add size in the paint.
The skinny: Moanalua has less depth than only a few other teams statewide. What it does have is the right mix of parts, and Tacon is a master assembler.
Whether Kure can take on a Manu Ginobili-type of role remains to be seen. He's a match-up problem for most defenses.
The graduation of steady point guard Jay Yoshizawa is a key loss, but Tacon is counting on underclassmen Randy Starks, Josiah Kauhola and Shane Aquino to fill the void.
"We would like to play more man-to-man defense this year and this year's crew might be able to do and become very good at it," Tacon said. "We're more athletic than last year, so getting up the court faster will be a goal. Our post play has really improved, so hopefully we can count on them to give us positive production."
X factor: Newcomer Marcus Monroe is an athletic, energetic force who showed plenty of potential against Iolani on Thursday. The 6-4 sophomore had 10 points and seven rebounds -- five on the offensive glass -- in the first half. When he wasn't on the floor, Moanalua couldn't keep up with the Raiders.