Post presence


POSTED: Wednesday, January 06, 2010

There was ballet and fishing.

First, the fishing.

Roughly seven years ago, Dee Thoemmes got a phone call from a boat offshore.

“;Hey, we caught a big fish,”; 10-year-old Mikela Thoemmes announced to her mother.

Dee didn't know exactly what “;big”; meant right away. Then she learned this: Mikela and her grandpa, Walter, had hooked 600- and 550-pound marlins not long after departing Keehi Lagoon.

“;He was on two poles. She was on the radio calling for help,”; Dee remembered. “;They got help to tie the marlins.”;

Since then, Mikela, the oldest of three children, has rarely failed to surprise — and impress — her mom.

SHE IS NIMBLE and swift. Not in a hurry, but quick on her feet.

Left hand. Right hand. Up-and-under post moves. Smooth stroke from mid-range.

Just don't expect Mikela to plie perfectly. It's been more than a decade since little Mikela stepped into ballet class, fulfilling the wish of her grandmother, Brenda. That lasted two years, when she turned to hoops at 6.

“;I was dancing ballet, but my mom wanted me to play basketball,”; recalled Mikela, now a 5-foot-9 Roosevelt senior who is one of the state's top post players.

Mom remembers it just a little differently.

“;She went for a couple years and she had enough,”; Dee Thoemmes said. “; 'This isn't for me.' Basketball was so natural.”;

Mikela has progressed since returning from a hand injury last year. Behind Thoemmes' 26-point outburst, the Rough Riders stunned Farrington in the playoffs before finishing second in the Oahu Interscholastic Association. Then, they won a state-tournament opener before falling in the quarterfinals.

“;Last year was really frustrating, coming off that win (over Farrington) and losing to them twice. This year is a whole new mind-set, new plays, my team is mentally stronger, you know? We have a deeper bench and they can play with me or without me. We all have confidence in each other,”; she said.

Headed into tonight's game against McKinley, 8th-ranked Roosevelt is 6-0 in league play (9-2 overall) with balanced scoring. Nicole Ramirez and Shana Kawakami have been high scorers along the way, while Thoemmes is the go-to scorer, averaging 18.5 points per game in OIA play, including a high of 35 against Moanalua. With shooters like Ramirez, Kelcie Namba and Abcde Furuta-Harada, defenses can't always sag down to double-team Thoemmes, and she likes finding open teammates. On top of that dilemma, opposing teams have to keep up.

“;It's a real faster pace of game we're playing,”; Thoemmes said.

A drive to succeed has long been in her DNA, which can be largely attributed to Dee, who played forward at Hawaii under Vince Goo two decades ago and is now a detective with HPD.

“;Defense is key to winning games. Rebounding is key, too,”; she said of lessons from Mom. “;Sometimes I'll go to the park with her and shoot 100 free throws, 100 shots from the box, 15-footers.”;

Roosevelt coach Hinano Higa and assistant Bob Keanini are teachers on the hardwood, familiar with Thoemmes from her years with 808 Basketball Club.

“;Hinano will tell us what to do. Bob puts in all our plays. This year, it's more about understanding what we're doing, knowing what we're trying to get out of our plays,”; she said, adding that those sessions with Dee are invaluable. “;Bob taught me how to box out, but my mom taught me how to arm bar.”;

Mikela took it upon herself to develop her other skills.

“;I worked on my attitude a lot. I'd get really frustrated and it would throw off my game,”; she said. “;Now I focus on defense. I get my energy back and I play better.”;

“;We put it in her head: Attitude is everything,”; Dee said. “;When she was a freshman, she was letting the other team have power over her. Now, it's about encouraging her team.”;

Mikela has her sights set on college and becoming a sports trainer.

“;I want to do something I like. I want to be close to sports,”; she said.

There are no regrets about ballet.

“;No,”; Mikela said. “;I think me coming to play basketball was one of the best decisions that we made.”;