Waiakea boys debuts at 8


POSTED: Monday, December 22, 2008

They are hungry and they are deep.






        With league play in high school basketball approaching, the Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10s, as determined in a poll of coaches and media members:


10. Saint Louis


9. Moanalua


8. Waiakea



The Waiakea Warriors still feel the sting of last year's finish—a loss in the third-place game of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation. A win would've put the Warriors (18-11, 10-6 BIIF last season) in a play-in game for a state berth. Instead, they stayed home as Honokaa was eliminated by Kamehameha two nights later.

With a new coach and eight returnees, including standout guard Mitchel Shintani, Waiakea was voted No. 8 in the Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Preseason Top 10.

On paper: Coach Jason Kauhi resigned in the offseason due to work obligations, but another former Hilo star has taken the reins. Paul Lee, who played and assisted as a coach at Hawaii-Hilo, learned much of the trade from former Vulcans coach Bob Wilson, his coach at UH-Hilo.

With Shintani, forward Chris Mattos and 6-foot-4 transfer Dakota Allen, Waiakea has a solid nucleus.

The Warriors are 6-1 in nonconference play, with a lone loss to 'Iolani, 41-38 in the final of the St. Joseph/Waiakea Invitational last week. They recently earned the Big Island Candies/Hilo High School Holiday Prep Classic with a 48-43 win over Hilo. Shintani, a 5-foot-10 junior, scored 15 points in the victory.

The skinny: A deep bench that includes Shintani's older brother, Christian, means Lee has more flexibility. Lee intends to keep most of the playbook, including a mix of pressure defenses, under lock and key until the regular season tips off in early January.

Christian Shintani, who opted to leave soccer to play basketball this season, is defense-minded. Like Mattos, Clayton Morante helps clear the boards. They combined for 21 rebounds against Hilo, their longtime arch rival.

Lee, who teaches at Hilo but was never hired to coach, has learned to be pragmatic.

“;We could easily be 3-4. We don't have a lot of guys who can go 1-on-1, but if we set up, we're all right,”; he said. “;Mitchel, we'll get some scoring from him, but he can run the offense the best of our guards.”;

Allen, who played junior varsity basketball at Kamehameha-Hawaii last year, gives them much-needed height. Mattos and Morante are both 5-10.

“;Dakota is a laid-back guy who could become a very good player if he wants to learn,”; Lee said.

Waiakea's erratic shooting is another key to watch.

“;Guys are getting wide open, but they're off-balance and not ready to shoot,”; Lee added.

X factor: His background as a former BIIF player of the year in the early 1990s is news to most current players, but Lee's experience as an IOC teacher—dealing with behavior-challenged students—has complemented his coaching skills.

“;The team had a lot of technical fouls before,”; he noted. “;We've been working on that aspect.”;