PAHALA >> Counselor. Coach. Mentor.
Ravel Kaupu was a relentless point guard with a fearless physicality in the paint back in the day. Now he has guided Ka‘u’s basketball present and future to unprecedented heights with the biggest feeder program in the district’s history.
With school out of session on this June day, Kaupu’s Hokulele club had 100 players, boys and girls, fourth grade to junior varsity, practicing at the Ka‘u High School gym. The first age group began at 10 a.m. It was 6 p.m. when the day was done.
“All we had in my days was the outside court,” said Kaupu, with a nod to the new Ka‘u District Gymnasium/Pahala Community Center.
The facility was built next to the high school gym, giving the keiki of Pahala an unprecedented opportunity.
“During the school year, we use the new gym. During summer, the new gym is open for summer fun, and we move over to this gym,” Kaupu said of his alma mater.
The school gym is old, a rustic beauty that is well taken-care of. Yes, there are a few dead spots on the old wooden floor, but it is wooden. Unlike a lot of new facilities that opt for synthetic (rubber) surfaces. There’s no substitute for history. Charm.
There’s also no one quite like Kaupu, who counsels at the high school on a part-time basis. The other two days of the week, he commutes to Hilo, where he undergoes kidney dialysis. His playing days are long gone, he said, but this love for basketball and the community persists.
It goes well beyond another era — Kaupu played in the 1990s and was one of the top players in the BIIF — and generation. The current group of hoopsters sticks around and gets extra shots up after practice.
Hokulele also hosts tournaments, including one in the spring that was a major fundraiser. That allowed the club to play in tournaments at Hilo and Honolulu. The latter destination isn’t cheap. The most recent tournament at the Hawaii Convention Center cost $600 per team entry, but Kaupu and the club’s parents pitch in together.