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Red Raiders facing tough road


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POSTED: Thursday, December 24, 2009

FIRST IN A SERIES

A year ago, the Kahuku Red Raiders were on the cusp of a state championship.

Coach Hiram Akina's squad was one basket short, losing to Kamehameha 47-45 in the Division I final. Whether it was a missed layup or a bizarre technical foul on an assistant coach or anything else, Kahuku felt the sting.

At this point, though, just getting back to the state final would be monumental. Kahuku enters the regular season ranked No. 10 in the Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Preseason Top 10, a ranking based more on recent history, returning talent and the wisdom of Akina.

On paper: Kahuku wasn't hit by a late infusion of football players as badly as it has been in other seasons, but the absence of Kona Schwenke is glaring.

The 6-foot-4 center may not play basketball, preferring to prepare for his football career at BYU. Couple that with the graduations of All-State Fab 15 guard Jray Galeai, 6-8 center Christian Feagai and secure ballhandler Irwin Ah-Hoy, and the young Red Raiders are digging deep.

Sharpshooting Nehoa Akina, an All-State Fab 15 guard, does return, as do Sage Kaka and a multitude of athletic underclassmen. Kaka is finding his shooting stroke; he hit three treys in a loss to Hamilton (Ariz.) at the 'Iolani Classic.

The skinny: Key seniors like Kaka (6-foot), Jackson Kaka (6-4) and Shairone Thompson (6-4) are only in their second week of practice since football season ended. Kahuku has been busy with the 'Iolani Classic, so there has been little time to work on basics.

Time is on Kahuku's side. The OIA playoff format rewards teams that get hot in January and February. That gives Akina time to mold this team.

X factor: It could be Schwenke, if he returns, but more importantly, Kahuku needs to jell. That will come with practice.