The first Star-Advertiser boys basketball poll of the season is out.
I don’t like it a whole lot. Not that it matters, of course. As always, high school polls are about fun. They are the equivalent of whipped cream. Tasty, sweet and of no nutritional value whatsoever.
Note: There’s this exceptional aspect. Several years ago, Mike Taylor’s Punahou squad and Bobbie Awa’s Konawaena team were about to square off in a preseason tournament. Leisurely game ahead, maybe, with no pressure and lots of reserves who need playing time to develop. That’s what I thought might be the case. WRONG. Both Awa and Taylor said they wanted to win this game big time because it could factor into the HHSAA seeding committee’s criteria come postseason.
That made things interesting immediately.
As for the boys poll, which includes coaches and media ballots, here’s how it looks tonight. This will be published in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Rank, School (first-place votes), Total points, Last season’s final rank
1. Punahou (11), 173, 7
2. Farrington (3), 163, 2
3. Kalaheo (4), 147, NR
4. Iolani (1), 145, 1
5. Saint Louis, 89, NR
6. Kamehameha, 61, 9
7. Mililani, 59, 10
8. Baldwin, 54, 6
9. Maryknoll, 49, 3
10. Campbell, 26, 4
Also receiving votes: Leilehua 21, Lahainaluna 13, McKinley 11, Pahoa 8, Roosevelt 8, Kahuku 7, Moanalua 4, Konawaena 3, Kaiser 2, Kailua 1, Damien 1.
This is, more than any time of the season, a real pain for most voters. The boys started two weeks after the girls, which makes it a much more difficult process. Many voters, I’m guessing, didn’t get a good looks at the preseason scores we do have — just two weeks’ worth.
Punahou at No. 1 makes sense only for this reason: the Buffanblu put an 18-point shellacking on previous unbeaten Farrington on Saturday at the OIA-ILH Challenge. The Governors had beaten Punahou the week before at the James Alegre Invitational, when rotations and personnel were still somewhat of a mystery to all coaches. I can’t argue too heavily against Punahou here, though my ballot (listed below) was different. Coach Darren Matsuda’s team is deep, roughly 10 quality players that he has to sift through every time out. It is a good problem for the Buffanblu.
Farrington was 6-0, beating ‘Iolani and Punahou before tiring out in their rematch with the Buffanblu. In their lopsided games, coach Allan Silva was willing to platoon, using all 16 of his players. In the games with Punahou, he pared the rotation. Whether that’s what led to tired legs, it’s not easy to say, not yet. But when I saw Farrington players jogging back on defense as Punahou went full throttle on the fastbreak, it was very disturbing. That’s why, even with a nice 6-1 mark, it’s hard to argue for the Govs at No. 1. A week ago, it would’ve been very possible.
Kalaheo is 7-1 after going 2-1 in the Ka‘apuni Invitational, losing to host Baldwin 44-38 on Saturday. Kupaa Harrison, from what I’ve heard, played through at least some of the tourney despite an injured ankle. The Mustangs return most of the rotation from last year’s young team, and the additions of Kaleb Gilmore, Captain Whitlock and other transfers gives Coach Alika Smith the luxury of depth. Whitlock’s ability to run the offense, hit the open 3 and play defense gives Kalaheo a nice cushion at point guard, where Kekai Smith is a solid starter. Jalen Smith, a 6-5 freshman, is another welcome addition. He’s a gangly sharpshooter who shot up somewhere around 7-8 inches in the past two years. He’s learning on the job, so to speak, to play the post defensively after growing up as a wing. Alec MacLeod brings savvy and experience, plus versatility. Harrison is the engine, a 6-4 senior who can play just about any position.
‘Iolani (5-1) has just the one loss to Kamehameha while figuring out its rotation. Some spots are very set, like PG Erik Yamada and posts Kamu Borden (6-4) and Hugh Hogland (6-8). They played fast against Farrington, leaking out for easy fastbreak baskets often. They can also slow down and pound the rock to their bigs. One year after the graduation of some key players, the Raiders will need more offense and will get it from Pikai Winchester.
Saint Louis is 6-0 after taking the title at the Clifford and Kathi Dias St. Joseph Cardinal Classic in Hilo. The Crusaders haven’t played the toughest schedule, but then again, we don’t know (yet) whether they were invited to the Alegre or the OIA-ILH Challenge. They’re deep in the backcourt and able in the frontcourt. Kevin Marks is a very tough slasher from the wing, Jimmy Nunuha III is a ballhawking defender, and both are 6 feet tall. Ihaka Johnson has developed into a steady point guard who can rain threes from deep, and his on-ball defense is tireless. Then they have Colten Nascimento as yet another reliable guard. Coach Keith Spencer has four seniors in this backcourt and he trusts them enough to let them run for long stretches.
Kamehameha (3-2) is young — just one senior — but voters have always liked and appreciated the defensive work Coach Greg Tacon’s teams bring to the court. The Warriors finished strong in a close win over Leilehua at the OIA-ILH Challenge. Every game has been tough and close, and though Tacon says the team has no identity this early in the season, it’s clear that defense is their cornerstone. Whether it’s been good enough for Tacon is another story. He’ll demand tough defense from his team, and though Jake Smith transferred to Farrington in the offseason, the Warriors will still contend in the ILH. Until the regular season, there will be bumps on the road; the Warriors lost to a seasoned Kalani squad 52-39 at the Challenge.
I haven’t seen Mililani play yet. All I know is they are 3-2 with wins over Honokaa, Saint Louis I-AA and Kamehameha, and losses to Hayward (Calif.) and ‘Iolani.
Baldwin won its tournament over the weekend, bouncing back from a fifth-place effort at the Surfriders Holiday Classic the week before that included a loss to Roosevelt. Coach Wayne Gushiken had a full lineup for the recent tourney.
Maryknoll is fun to watch. Young, inexperience to an extent, but very tall and talented. Center Brian Washington, who stands around 6-4, has a Stacey Augmon kind of body. He’s already a good shotblocker as a freshman, and his low-post game is sneaky-effective. Sophomore transfer Justice Sueing Jr. is deceptively explosive to the basket, a little more so because he’s a lefty. Losing All-State player of the year Josh Burnett to graduation and All-State guard Kaleb Gilmore (transfer) was tough, but they also miss big post Tyson Kaloa. He was a smart, heady role player who used his height and size to his team’s advantage.
Campbell (2-1) has probably played a game or two since the Hawaii Self-Storage Black and Gold Classic two weeks ago. What I saw was a team with some nice piece at the point and center (David Marrero). If the Sabers clean up the turnovers, they might go as far as last year’s squad.
As for the also-receiving-votes teams, some quick notes.
Leilehua — Very, very competitive in preseason. Ballhandling issues late in games will be something to work on.
Lahainaluna — Tall, strong in the paint, but too many missed layups.
McKinley — Fast, maybe the fastest transition team in the OIA. One year wiser, too.
Pahoa — Probably the most underrated team in this poll. The Daggers are 6-1 and can’t crack this Top 10. Tolby Saito is one of the top players in the state. He dropped 27 on Saint Louis in the tourney final on Saturday. They beat Kaiser in the final of the Keaau/Waiakea tournament.
Roosevelt — A lot of injury issues, but the Rough Riders persevere. Kevin Foster is a savvy scoring guard, but they’ll need consistency to make their speed game go.
Kahuku — First-year head coach Alan Akina has talent with 6-5 wing Samuta Avea and sharpshooting guard Keanu Akina, his son.
Moanalua — Kyrie McRaven is the real deal, standing about 6-3 or 6-4 with nice mid-range shooting touch and a tight end’s body.
Konawaena — Coach Donald Awa’s squad is reloading after last year’s stellar season. They’re loaded with underclassmen. This will take some time, but there are some good pieces to work with, including a few transfers from Honokaa.
Kaiser — Chance Kalaugher is a big man with quickness on the post, a young standout last season. I haven’t seen the Cougars yet.
Damien — Rocky Mori and Kapi‘ina King give the Monarchs two solid returnees. They would’ve been competitive in ILH Division I, but in D-II, the Monarchs have an opportunity to challenge for the state title.
Based on all the info we have now, this is how I would’ve voted:
1. Saint Louis. Until they fall, they are the only unbeaten team I know of.
2. Punahou. Just one loss, and they avenged it against Farrington.
3. Kalaheo. I give them the benefit of the doubt even after the loss to Baldwin. When Harrison is 100 percent, they might be the best in the state.
4. Farrington. Some blowout wins early, and though they’re just trying to figure things out, I expected more in that blowout loss to Punahou.
5. ‘Iolani. They didn’t play badly against Farrington in defeat. Still stunned they lost to a team that was so inconsistent that night.
6. Maryknoll. Young, talented and a work in progress.
7. Pahoa. Yes, the Daggers. I don’t care about classification. They’ve been clutch with wins over a lot of decent teams.
8. Campbell. Ready to go higher?
9. Lahainaluna. Big guys. Not much exposure so far.
10. Damien. Trust in Rocky and a King.
The one team I haven’t mentioned much is Kalani. They’re a real sleeper in the OIA, a team that has experience in the backcourt and enough depth to make this, maybe, a very interesting season.