He is the returning all-state Fab 15 player of the year.
Hugh Hogland has no reason to be in awe of any other hoopster on the hardwood. ‘Iolani’s 6-foot-9 senior — they announce him as a forward, not a center, at home games — has earned his place among the finest players in state history. He is a force on both ends of the floor, a shot blocker with impeccable timing and body control, and a low-post scorer with excellent passing skills.
But when he thinks about Kahuku, the top seed in this season’s Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships, he knows the task is daunting.
“They have so much size and athleticism. They’re on par with some of the best mainland teams,” Hogland said during Wednesday’s quarterfinal round after the Raiders’ 70-37 win over Waiakea. “Our guards have got to keep (Jessiya) Villa from driving. He’s so fast! (Samuta) Avea is so athletic and (Dan) Fotu is so skillful. I’ve never seen anybody as skilled with that height in my four years.”
It’s not that the Raiders need to butter up any opponent. Hogland seems to embrace his team’s unseeded, underdog role, even after winning two of the previous three state titles. They try to always play as one team, as the school motto goes, and they do keep things real, from the top down.
Coach Dean Shimamoto has already guided ‘Iolani to state championships in 2010, ’14 and ’16. Coming out of the ILH as the runner-up isn’t a deterrent. Since ’08, an ILH team has won the state crown seven times. Twice, it was an unseeded team: Punahou in ’08 and Kamehameha in ’11.
In addition, this is the first time in recent memory that the state tourney has gone to a staggered schedule. Instead of games on four consecutive days, the tourney began on Monday, then resumed on Wednesday. That extra 24 hours is invaluable for a team like ‘Iolani, which had a stretch of seven games in 10 days including Monday’s opening-round win over Moanalua.
“My body’s really feeling it,” Hogland said.
Shimamoto continues to platoon five in and five out, and the big lead on Waiakea helped. None of ‘Iolani’s starters played more than 15 minutes, which is less than half a game.