Punahou preseason No. 1 in boys, girls hoops
» Buffanblu boys have not won a state title since ’99
» Return of Kuehu twins spells trouble for rest of state
Punahou is double trouble in more ways than one this winter.
Both the Buffanblu boys and girls basketball teams are ranked No. 1 in the Star-Bulletin Preseason Top 10.
This is the first year that both boys and girls basketball will be played in the same season. Previously, the girls played in the spring.
Both Punahou teams finished second in the state a year ago.
Fans planning to watch the Punahou girls also will be seeing double, as both Kuehu twins (Shawna-Lei and Shaena-Lyn) are back in action for their senior seasons after sitting out all of last year with injuries.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Matt Feldman, above, and Robbie Toma have been sharing time at point guard for preseason No. 1 Punahou.
Buffanblu boys have not won a state title since ’99
The expectation is perfection.
It's not just the desire of Punahou student-athletes and coaches, but of alumni and even opposing teams. The expectation is, perhaps, unreasonable.
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
Since 1982, Punahou has won exactly two boys basketball state championships. In fact, the Buffanblu have reached the state semifinals just five times in that quarter of a century. Surprising?
When coaches from smaller programs talk about the "rich getting richer" in prep sports, there's no question they're referring to Punahou. The Buffanblu lost All-State players Miah Ostrowski and Spencer McLachlin to graduation, but return a wealth of talent.
Last season's 61-53 loss to Kaimuki in the state final was a victory for Cinderella fans near and far. For Punahou, it was another frustrating trip to the ball. For the Buffanblu, eight years without a boys hoop title may as well feel like a century.
Dan Hale knows a little something about state championships. Now in his second year at his alma mater, the former Buffanblu standout now has the blessing -- or burden -- of guiding a team that the Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Top 10 panel voted No. 1 in preseason.
"I think each team is really different. We lost Miah and Spencer, two huge guys for us. Our guys are trying to figure out where they can contribute, and we've only played four games, so (rankings) are so far out of our minds," Hale said.
2006-07 record: 24-4 (11-1 ILH). ILH champion. State runner-up.
On paper: As a player, Hale was the anchor of three consecutive Punahou state championship teams from 1979 to '81 under three coaches: Chris McLachlin, Ray Buck and Robin Durand. Those squads might have a problem with the current Buffanblu, a stronger, deeper squad compared to last season.
Last year's team had a No. 1 ranking most of the way, and Spencer McLachlin was a beneficiary of Hale's inside-out system. In the finals, however, Kaimuki was too physical and strong in the paint.
Punahou won't be pushed around this time. Kameron Steinhoff has returned from surgery to remove his spleen, a football injury that scared the talented 6-foot-5 senior in more ways than one. His recovery has been remarkable, but his play on the hardwood has been scintillating.
Steinhoff teams with Trevor Crabbe (6-5) in the paint to create a twin-towers effect. No team in the state can duplicate their height and chemistry.
When they get a breather, Hale platoons in football standouts Manti Te'o and Kimo Makaula. At 6-2, the two juniors are physically unchallenged by most high school players.
Robbie Toma and Matt Feldman have been rock-solid at the point. Dalton Hilliard has high-scoring potential thanks to Punahou's solid ballhandling depth.
The skinny: The one knock on the Buffanblu so far has been a lack of chemistry, a claim that hasn't been justified. Though Hale has split playing time among 10 players, they play unselfishly. Of the 21 field goals in a recent preseason win over Iolani, 12 came on assists -- not a bad ratio.
X factor: The second five at Punahou would start at a lot of other programs. Hale has his foot on the pedal and his team is running and pressing under control. Keeping all of his talent happy about playing time is a big challenge.
Will they be content to share points and playing time to win a state championship?
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Twins Shaena-Lyn and Shawna-Lei Kuehu were out with ACL injuries last season, but are back for their senior seasons.
Return of Kuehu twins spells trouble for rest of state
The pass floated for just a fleeting moment.
Top 10 countdown
With girls 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:
Like a free safety, Shawna-Lei Kuehu read it, swooped toward the right sideline and plucked the ball out of the air. In a split-second, she reversed direction and speed-dribbled to her left, across the center of the floor. Campbell's athletic defenders retreated, but it was too late,
The 5-foot-10 right-hander effortlessly penetrated through the high post, skied to the bucket and dropped in a left-handed lay-up. Knee injury? No problem.
Kuehu, a two-time Star-Bulletin player of the year, is back. So is her twin sister, All-State swingman Shaena-Lyn Kuehu. Punahou, state champion in 2005 and '06, is also back in the throne, at least in the eyes of coaches and media. The Buffanblu collected nine of the 10 first-place votes in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Preseason Top 10.
"I don't think we deserve the No. 1 ranking because we lost to a great Kalani team," coach Mike Taylor said of an early nonconference loss two weeks ago. "If I had to pick a No. 1 now, I'd say Iolani or Kalani.
"We have the potential to be pretty good, but right now we're trying to get used to playing with one another and the twins again," said Taylor, who has led Punahou to three state crowns in the past five seasons.
2006-07 record: 22-7 (9-5 ILH). State runner-up.
On paper: Last season, Taylor extracted every ounce of potential out of a team that was relatively young, small and lacking a lot of experience. Getting the Buffanblu to the state finals was an accomplishment, thanks to leadership from seniors Melanie Feldman, Ciana Aiwohi and All-State forward Chelsea Deptula.
This year's team will be long on effort plus experience and talent. Kuehu's return from an ACL injury that took her junior season is the biggest reason why Punahou is a heavy favorite to win the state crown. It's not the only reason, though.
Shaena-Lyn Kuehu, who also missed last season with an ACL injury, is arguably the state's best defender. At 5-9 with long arms and good agility, she gives Punahou a point-forward leader on the floor.
With the Kuehu twins out, Janelle Nomura and Tressa Torres had more room to develop. Nomura, a 5-4 guard, was voted to the All-State Fab 15. Torres, a 5-9 post, became one of the toughest low-post players in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
Dara Tompkison, a 5-4 senior, is showing the ability to command a game with her handles and accurate shooting touch.
The skinny: Last season's team depended heavily on a full-court press, and Deptula was a master thief in passing lanes. Having the Kuehu twins back to speed makes Punahou's press lethal.
X factor: The Buffanblu learned how to win games without the Kuehus, but regaining chemistry with their return shouldn't be a major challenge. Shaena Kuehu has a pass-first mentality, and Shawna Kuehu considers her scoring options wisely.
Shawna Kuehu's passing skills will give cutters and perimeter shooters plenty of scoring opportunities, especially because most teams will double-team her.
If the Buffanblu can hit wide-open shots, the state title is theirs for the taking.