If you’ve never heard of Peniel Educational Ministries before, you aren’t the first.
Zion Kese has spent countless time explaining the school he attends. He is also patient when he’s asked how to spell Peniel.
“It’s like pen, which you write with, and ‘iel’. It’s just a small Christian school in Pearl City,” he said.
Kese put his school on the basketball map on Saturday with a resounding performance at the Hawaii Senior Classic in Moanalua gym. The 6-foot-2 wing scored 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting, adding 2-for-2 at the foul line, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal. The solidly-built senior also hit two of his three attempts from the 3-point arc, and threw down a ferocious dunk on a drive down the middle.
His ILH squad lost, 94-87, to the OIA, but man, what a lasting memory from a player that almost nobody had ever seen at the prep level in Hawaii.
Kese scored nearly 27 points per game at P.E.M. Judging by his physicality, skill and motor, he would have been a 12 or 14-points-per-game player in ILH Division I. That’s saying a lot. The best players from the best teams in the ILH averaged 14 or so points per outing.
Who is this guy? Just a guess, but he looks at least 220 pounds on a 6-2 frame. An explosive, efficient and tough hoopster with a college body.
Kese grew up playing for a talented, explosive basketball club known as 76 South back in the day. But he wound up playing his high school ball at P.E.M. When his name and school showed up on the ILH roster for the Classic, a lot of fans scratched their heads.
“It’s just a home school for family and friends,” said Kese, who is built like a tight end or linebacker, but has the hops that could have won him the dunk contest. “We have a team. We challenge small Christian schools around the island. I played with 76 South, but at the moment, Open Court.”
Senior Classic founder and operator Geremy Robinson Sr. is the coach of Open Court.
“The reason I stayed at my school is, it’s not a lot of kids who get the opportunity to come out to these kind of things. I want to let them all know that if you put in the hard work, you’ll make it there,” Kese said.
Kese is interested in playing at the college level. His parents have heard from a few coaches at the next level. The journey, though, hasn’t been perfectly smooth. The temptation to attend a bigger school with a bigger program was always there.
“My parents would talk me into staying. In order to be good to everybody else, for all the other kids in our school that can make it that far,” Kese said.
The opportunity to practice with team-ILH teammates like Bryce Forbes of Damien is already a fond memory.
“I’ve known some of these guys for the last two, three years in club season. I’m a lot closer with them now after practicing with them yesterday and playing today,” Kese said.
There’s just one regret.
“One thing I would’ve changed is working harder, getting my grades better. They’re good, but could’ve been a lot better,” he said.
His advice to other young student-athletes debating on whether to stay home or leave for seemingly greener pastures is simple.
“Just work hard. It’s never to late to work hard,” Kese said. “You can always get better.”
But that dunk in traffic, talk about elevation and power. Why didn’t Kese enter the Classic dunk contest?
“I was going to join, but. Backed out. I didn’t want to hurt myself before the actual game,” he said. “If it was after the game, I would’ve done it.”