Q&A: Kamehameha two-sport standout Kalina Obrey

Kamehameha junior Kalina Obrey won a state title in girls volleyball in the fall and now looks to cap the winter season with a state championship in girls basketball. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

She is a two-sport standout who transcends the lines between “us” and “them.”

Ask coaches about Kalina Obrey, particularly the ones her Kamehameha Warriors have already played in the still-early basketball season, and they rave about the 5-foot-11 junior.

Of course, nobody knows her like her own coaches, like Kamehameha volleyball coach Chris Blake. (See comments by Blake and Kalani’s Chi Mok at the end of this Q&A.)

The Warriors won the state volleyball title in October with Obrey as one of their most productive assets. It was a season of success for a player who admittedly loves basketball more, yet worked so hard that she became an all-state Fab 15 selection.

Basketball? The ILH season tipped off last night in the ILH, but No. 2-ranked Kamehameha (9-1) doesn’t play until Thursday against Sacred Hearts. Obrey is already on a roll, having scored 20 points per game during the Orthopedic Associates Sacred Hearts Invitational over the weekend.

Read more about Obrey in the prep feature in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Kalina Obrey
Kamehameha volleyball, basketball
Jr.

Q&A • Favorites

Athlete: LeBron James.
> I like his all-around game , and how he makes his teammates better, and how he is a coach on the floor.

Do you think Kyrie Irving made a mistake?
> I like Kyrie. He helped the team.

But do you think he was crazy to leave?
> I wouldn’t say that. I liked him.

Team: Cleveland Cavaliers.
> Because of LeBron James.

Does this mean you own a Cleveland jersey or T-shirt?
> When I was little, I used to have two LeBron James jersey. Not anymore.

Would you like one for Christmas?
> Yeah, I’d be happy with that.

Food: Side Street Inn.

Is there anything specific there you love?
> I love their kal bi. I love just everything.

Is this the one by Ala Moana or Kapahulu?
> The one at Kapahulu. I don’t go there often, but when my grandparents come to town from California, we take them there. I love it.

Movie: Blind Side.
> When they got into a car crash and he punched air bag to save the little kid from getting hurt. I was so sad, I started crying.

TV show: Friends.
> Phoebe is my favorite. She is hilarious.

Is she the older one?
> She’s the blonde one.

OK, Lisa Kudrow. Do you relate to her?
> She just cracks me up. I watch it on Netflix. It never gets old. I always watch it.

Video game: Candy Crush.
> I used to play it lots, but I had to delete. I was always playing it. I got addicted to it. I would have to do my homework, but I was always on my phone instead.

Did you need an intervention from a friend?
> No. It wasn’t that bad.

How much did your GPA drop during your addiction to Candy Crush?
> It didn’t drop, it was more like my mom was yelling about me because she was talking to me and I was ignoring her.

Do you get the urge to play Candy Crush and have to stifle it?
> No, I don’t have any video games on my phone anymore. When I did when I was younger, Candy Crush was my favorite. I stopped playing, like, two years ago.

Teacher: Mr. Lai (Kamehameha, speech class).
> He is the funniest teacher I have ever had. Speech is a requirement we have to take before we graduate. He’s just really creative with how he teaches. He always makes sure he interacts with us. When he takes roll, you have to answer with what would our pet dragon poop out.

GPA: 3.750
> I think it’s a solid GPA, but I want to get it higher like always. It can always be better.

Very difficult to do while playing two sports, the normal student life, squeezing in study time.
> Having study hall time helps because in basketball we have later practice times. Sometimes we don’t start until 5:30 p.m. We have homeroom sometimes or free periods, I’ll do homework then or during lunch. Hang out at the library and do homework.

I notice you have a zero at the end of your GPA. You are on this like a hawk. Is this obsession or you just have fun with every little change.
> This is my cumulative and our school lets us keep track, my parents can always check.

Class: I don’t have a favorite class.

What your mom (Sunny) says that you can’t forget: “Do the dishes.”
> My mom also says ‘Clean your room.’

What your dad (Joshua) says that you can’t forget: He tells me a lot of things and gives me a lot of advice, and coaches me through life, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be, ‘Did you do your homework?’

What your coaches say that you can’t forget: ‘Success is achieved in unity’ — Coach Chris Blake.
‘The team above me. Above me, the team.’ — Coach Joe Cho

How does your sport affect your daily life during the season and offseason?
> Really, there is no offseason. For basketball and volleyball, school and club overlap. It is a lot of fun, but unless it’s summer, there are a lot of late nights.

> I still have fundraisers and clinics I have to go to on Sundays for my club (808 Basketball).

When is the last time you had two weeks of nothing? No practice. No workouts. No fundraisers.
> I can’t remember. Maybe before seventh grade because I started playing volleyball in seventh grade.

There aren’t a lot of kids who play two club sports. Do you recommend it?
> If you love both sports enough and you’re working hard in them, it’s fun and you get to make new friends, I recommend it if you’re willing to sacrifice a lot.

Like Candy Crush?
> Yes.

What elementary and middle schools did you attend?
> Noelani Elementary and Kamehameha Middle School.

What youth teams did you play for?
> As a youth, I played for Kalakaua. Shoutout Coach (Dennis) Agena, he really helped me get better. Now I play for Coach Bob (Keanini) and Hinano (Higa) at 808. I play volleyball for Ku‘ikahi.

The Obrey name, most fans would assume volleyball is your first love or No. 1 sport. They must be surprised that you like volleyball, but you love basketball.
> Basketball is my first love. I think I like that it’s a faster game, a physical sport. When I get mad, I can have a lot of contact.

Do you think a lot of volleyball players choose that over basketball because there’s no less running?
> When I was younger I used to think that, but by high school they just choose one or there other.

What is your ultimate dream/bucket list?
> To visit as many different countries and places as possible. There is so much out there for me to see and learn.
1. New Zealand
2. Fiji
3. Japan
4. Paris
5. Italy

I want to see the world.

Where have you traveled for sports
> Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Oregon, Miami and Orlando.

What is the history and background of your name?
> Kalina means awaiting something special. And my middle name, Angel, was given to me because my parents say they felt so blessed when I was born.

Do you know anything about your last name?
> I don’t know anything. I think it’s Irish, but I’m not sure.

Any shout-outs?
> Shout out to my parents for allowing me to play sports year round. I get to travel a lot and I know it takes their sacrifice. To my grandparents on both sides for all their support, I love you guys. To all my uncles for all their support. To our volleyball coaches and team, thank you for showing me what it takes to be champions. To our basketball team, I am so lucky to have you guys, thank you for making me a better player.

Volleyball: What’s the hardest thing about getting better?
> For me, it was to focus on how to get better at it because I was always focused on basketball. I didn’t want to let my teammates down, constantly trying to improve my jumping and blocking. If I can do that I can help be part of a championship. Kamehameha has such a legacy in volleyball, being coached by Chris Blake and these girls are part of my family. The Maas. The Robins. The Akanas. I love being part of it.

> We won but we have an even bigger target on our backs because we’re state champions (again) so we have to work even harder.

Basketball: It’s much different, it’s not a legacy sport, though there have been excellent coaches, state championships, but not like volleyball. (Note: Kamehameha girls basketball has nine state titles while girls volleyball has 21.)
> I hope we return to the state tournament and make it to the championship. I think it’s going to be a lot closer than it was last year. Right now, it looks like Maryknoll is the favorite.

You guys have talent, and nice mix. But you’re only a junior, so there’s next year… then again, Princy (Jewel Paaluhi-Caulk) and Kiana (Vierra) are seniors.
> I look at it as it’s just another chance for me to grow as a player and individual, and for our younger ones to step up and gain a bigger role. Even this year, MS has 10 seniors or more graduating. After this year, a lot of teams are losing key players, like Konawaena losing Cherilyn and Mikayla. It’s a chance for the young girls to show what they’ve got and ball out.

It must be nice to have your point guard back for game action.
> Princy, I love her, she always has my back. She’s one of my best friends. She’s one of the funniest people I know.

So, Maryknoll is a terrific team, ranked No. 1 in the state. But your team is real close.
> Maryknoll is bearable and they’re tough. We have to play a great game against everybody in the ILH.

* * *

Volleyball coach Chris Blake: Kalina is awesome.

HPW: What did you like most about her contribution on and off the court?

Blake: She is such a competitor and she is driven by the need to succeed. She is a student of the game and is able to maximize her efforts and get the most out of what she has. She is a warrior and does not like to lose. She is very focused and willing to do what it takes to be successful.

HPW: What has she improved most since she joined the program?

Blake: In seventh grade, she joined our program and she was a gifted athlete and her focus was basketball. As she matured, she continued to grow and she has improved physically a great deal, but her biggest growth was in her mental side of the game. She is so efficient and the game has slowed down for her in both volleyball and in basketball. She has a great knowledge of the game and court vision that she knows what to do in order to be most effective. And she has the skills to do it.

HPW: She has a 3.75 GPA plus two sports. Does she remind you of any other scholar-athlete that you’ve coached?

Blake: Kalina reminds me of Kea Kimball from the late ‘90s. She is physically gifted and very unassuming. She just does her job and the next thing you know is she fills up a stats sheet. She may not be as quick as Kea was, but she finds a way to get the job done. She also has a very similar work ethic and works hard in the gym, in the weight room and track to make sure that she does everything she can to maximize her efforts. She is also such a great teammate and Kalina holds her team accountable and will be sure that everyone does their part to be a part of the success.

* * *

Here’s more coach chat, now with Kalani coach Chi Mok and former Sacred Hearts coach Ryan Hogue, who is now athletic director at the school. Kalani played Kamehameha early in preseason. Hogue organized the recent three-day tourney at Sacred Hearts and watched all of Kamehameha’s games.

HPW: What do you like about her game?

Mok: I like that Kalina is unafraid to mix it up. She may not always be the biggest girl inside but she does not shy away from contact. In addition to a nice inside game, she can actually handle the ball and has a nice shot. I just love the passion that she plays with.

Hogue: Her biggest attribute is her motor. She plays the game with great amount of passion and is very active around the basket. She does an excellent job of getting weak side rebounds and getting tangled up on her put backs which gets her to the free throw line and second chance opportunities. She also has a very solid repertoire of post moves and is able to finish with both hands around the basket. She also can face up and attack from the elbow.

I think she stands in class of her own in recent post players on the girls side. Her combination of talent and energy are a Coaches dream. I think Kaupu from Kona has a high IQ and very solid face up game but doesn’t bunker down in the post like Obrey. That is a old school trait. Every team needs a go to meat and potatoes post player who can seal and finish and suck the D in. Kimani Fernandez-Roy of KS-Maui is unique talent in her athleticism and motor but she is not a polished offensive presence. Hee and Obrey were a fun match-up because she could muscle Obrey around the basket.

HPW: How does she compare to other post players this year and in the past? Does she remind you of anyone?

Mok: She reminds me of a mixture of Moli Heimuli and Shawna Lei Kuehu. Plays unafraid and has high basketball IQ. She had potential to be the best to come out of Hawaii. That’s including the Molina sisters, Brandi Richardson, Lia Galdeira, Shawna-Lei Kuehu, Nani Cockett, etc. when she is done playing in Hawaii, she will be mentioned with those names.

Hogue: I think she stands in class of her own in recent post players on the girls side. Her combination of talent and energy are a Coaches dream. I think (Caiyle) Kaupu from Kona has a high IQ and very solid face up game but doesn’t bunker down in the post like Obrey. That is a old school trait. Every team needs a go to meat and potatoes post player who can seal and finish and suck the D in. Kimani Fernandez-Roy from KS-Maui is unique talent in her athleticism and motor but she is not a polished offensive presence. Hee and Obrey were a fun match-up because she could muscle Obrey around the basket.

HPW: How important is her role for Kamehameha?

Mok: I actually talk to coach (Joseph) Cho a lot and to put it quite frankly, Kalina is the heart and soul of the team. She leads by example and will never settle for anything less than 100 percent on the court. With Kalina, they have a chance to compete with Maryknoll. Without, very unlikely they can beat Maryknoll. I’ve been watching Kalina since the seventh grade. From the first time I saw her playing with the varsity in the Radford Summer league as a seventh grader, I knew she was going to be something special. She has not disappointed.

Hogue: Her role is very important when things get tough she keeps them going with second chances and grind it out buckets as well as her defensive presence.

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