The Maryknoll Spartans and Kahuku Red Raiders figured to have a battle this morning.
Instead, only five Kahuku suited up (see more below), and seventh-ranked Maryknoll rolled to a 79-37 win at the Punahou Invitational. Hayato Kamata scored 11 points, all in the first half, for Maryknoll. Jaylen Cain added 10 as the Spartans used their reserves early and often.
Keanu Akina poured in 20 points for Kahuku. Taimona Wright added 10.
I got here after the game was done and word is that a bunch of Kahuku players sat out in protest of the call-up of some freshmen from the JV team. I haven’t confirmed this via the Red Raiders head coach or any players yet, but that’s what I’ve heard from four different sources here at the tournament.
So Kahuku played and lost with just five players in uniform. The protesting players watched in street clothes. Yes, they made the trip to the tournament and sat out. More later.
So I spent the last few minutes chatting with some Kahuku players, all seniors, when someone passed the word that they wanted to talk with me. And this is what I think. There is a trust issue between them and Coach Alan Akina. That may sound preposterous to some fans because Kahuku is so physically talented every year. But two freshmen were called up. Fact. Some of the seniors are feeling like Coach doesn’t trust them enough with on-court responsibilities. The feelings are real. Fact.
They said there were 13 players on the roster, so logically, there’s space for two players. Every coach in pretty much every situation wants a full roster over the course of an entire season. Attrition is part of the deal. Injuries. Academic casualties. Illness. Family emergencies.
Without having a chance to speak with Coach Akina, this is what I surmise. From what I know about him, he’s been a lifer for Kahuku basketball. He coaches their team in offseason leagues, making the trek from Big Red Country to town in many leagues for high school and middle school leagues. He’s done this for years, not just in the past few as the high school head coach.
On paper, yes, Kahuku usually can stand to pick up a few more guards, get more ballhandlers. True of many, many programs . The players who spoke to me have their points. They want to be respected a little more. Trusted a little more. But this is the kind of stuff that should handled in family. They said they’ve already tried to talk with their head coach and their athletic director. But let’s face it: no AD is going to tell a coach that he or she has personally hired that his manner and/or X’s and O’s need an overhaul. And when it does — this sort of happened at Kalaheo in the offseason with Alika Smith, except in his case official complaints were made by a couple of players, and nothing has been filed by Kahuku players — just about every coach would rather hit the road than have someone outside the team dictate anything.
And yet, there are, according to the seniors who sat out in protest, other JV players who refused to move up to Varsity today. That’s a key reason why Coach Akina had just five players in uniform this morning.
It’s complicated, but my hope is all the parties involved have said their piece, agreed to disagree and are ready to move forward together. I think it’s the same feeling and thought most of us non-Kahuku graduates have. We enjoy what that community has brought to prep sports in Hawaii all these years. To see it disintegrate, or even the possibility of that, is incomprehensible, really.
No marriage is perfect. No family is, either. I’m glad the seniors, who told me point blank that they believe their coach is a good man, are handling this in the most mature manner that they know. There are three days left in this Punahou Invitational. Hopefully, they make their mark on the court the rest of the way.
I haven’t spoke with Coach Akina yet, though he did text earlier this afternoon. I spoke with Punahou coach Darren Matsuda, who’s had more stress than usual in running this event. Recently, he fielded a call from Kahuku administration, saying that the team would pull out of the tournament. That would’ve really set the tourney back. There are teams that spent a lot of money, Matsuda said, to travel here from China, California and Oregon. Matsuda managed to talk Kahuku out of dropping out.
I heard that info earlier, but Matsuda simply confirmed it.
Kamehameha coach Greg Tacon is among those who back Akina on this matter.
“I don’t have any other thoughts about it. I support Alan,” he said.
Kahuku’s situation was brought to the forefront when two parents, according to Matsuda, pushed hard for a meeting with administrators. It was then that they pushed to have Akina forced out. That’s when the school called Matsuda. It wasn’t exactly a strong show of support by the administration of Akina.
“I support him,” Matsuda said.