Q&A: Kahuku basketball coach Brandyn Akana

Kahuku celebrated its 70-55 win over Punahou to win the Division I state boys basketball title. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser. (Feb. 16, 2017)
Kahuku celebrated its 70-55 win over Punahou to win the Division I state boys basketball title. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser. (Feb. 16, 2017)

Kahuku’s Jessiya Villa leads 2017 boys basketball Fab. 15 voting

Brandyn Akana is not a fortune teller, nor is he a prophet.

He simply wants to enjoy the moment, which is a wise choice. Kahuku’s first boys basketball state championship captured the imagination of hometown fans and faraway foes alike. With all the chaos that surrounded the University of Hawaii men’s basketball program while he was an assistant coach there, the NCAA violations, the questions over the hiring of Akana at Kahuku, much of it has settled down like dust from a windstorm that has blown through town. The anguish of those inside the program — a new coaching staff, players left to continue on – and those outside, is seemingly now behind them. With the NCAA’s subsequent, long-awaited decision to not punish the program any further than its self-imposed sanctions, Akana had already moved on.

Winning a Division I state championship can have that effect. Akana, 41, was open and frank during a conversation this week with Hawaii Prep World. His nephew, Jessiya Villa, set the bar for point guards statewide, returning to the islands and setting the speed and tone for the fastbreaking Red Raiders. While Villa went on a run that led to a state title and Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15 player of the year honors, teammate Samuta Avea recovered from an offseason ankle injury and rewarded loyal fans by powering Kahuku, earning all-tourney most outstanding player honors at the state championships.

Avea has signed with Hawaii. Villa’s future is unclear, aside from a commitment to go on a two-year church mission. Akana? He expects to return, but his passion for coaching at the college level remains. So does his love for competing, and forming analyses of teams and players. In a Hawaii Prep World story about today’s All-State team, Akana was among the coaches who provided commentary on each of the players, as well as a few players who barely missed the list.

Here’s the Q&A.

Hawaii Prep World: You’ve said to me before that you just want to enjoy and celebrate what the team did this season, winning states, going 26-3, arguably one of the best state championship teams in history. But I know fans are wondering what will happen next season. You were at the college level for so long, it makes sense that you might return there sooner rather than later, no differently from other Hawaii coaches who are often overqualified at the prep level. Have you been getting contact with college programs?

Akana: Yes, definitely. I’m already getting calls. That’s another thing. What do I want to do? That’s why it’s kind of like I need to think of my family, it’s a family decision. Do I go back to the collegiate level, stay at high school? There’s a lot of options, that’s why I try to enjoy what we have right now. I spent 15, 16 years at the collegiate level. This is a year and a half of high school, which is a whole new world to me. Where am I most comfortable?

HPW: You’ve got children in school right now.

Akana: Four children. The girls are in 10th grade and ninth grade at Kamehameha. They play volleyball. We have a son, 12, and a 3-year-old. If I have a chance to coach at the collegiate level, it’s probably the mainland and you have to think about the kids.

HPW: I wonder if the local Division II colleges have been interested. If BYU-Hawaii wasn’t shutting down its athletic program, that would be a possibility, maybe.

Akana: I’ve talked to some of those D-II individuals so that’s an option. Fortunately, I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been on the D-II side longer. I know what both have to offer. I plan to return. it’s been great. I plan to. But you never know.

HPW: Dan Fotu is was a skilled, explosive, smart low-post scorer who was a wing for the New Zealand junior national team. At the next level, he’ll have to develop his perimeter shot and footwork. He has a lot of potential.

Akana: He can hit the 3, no doubt about it. I was saving that where we’d pop him out to shoot the 3.

HPW: There are people criticizing the influx of transfers — Fotu and Samuta Avea, even though he was originally from Kahuku — though there have been other high schools here that have received transfers from other states and other countries. What would you say to the critics?

Akana: I know Dan’s got his family, his uncle is here. I know the school followed everything. I’m not in the mix of it, but there’s nothing to say. It’s unfortunate that some people are digging and trying to, I don’t know, trying to find fault with it. Jessiya’s here. He’s going to graduate. Muta, that’s why he came back. To graduate with his friends at Kahuku.

HPW: I’ve heard from a few people that Fotu went home to New Zealand. Will he come back to Kahuku? If I had to guess, it would be 30 percent that he returns to Kahuku for his senior season.

Akana: Right now I think it’s higher than that. The thing is there’s a lot of college teams looking at him. Gonzaga is one of the schools contacting him. They just love his game. They saw him in New Zealand. UH has been in contact. They went down to New Zealand before the season to talk with him.

HPW: If he was homesick, missed his family, doesn’t want to return to Kahuku with the seniors graduating, that would make sense.

Akana: That’s something they’ve got to decide. I know he’s planning on coming back. He didn’t go home for good. He went home to see his family, and he’s coming back soon. That’s what I know.

HPW: What’s your relationship with the current UH staff and coach Eran Ganot like?

Akana: It’s good. We still text each other and he’s been following us, watching our practice because of Samuta, and they love Fotu. Jessiya is a 2019 kid because he’s going on his mission. These guys are not your typical, what you see come from Hawaii. He was born here, but played in DC. Just like Muta. He went to Utah one year. Fotu had one year of international ball.

HPW: Thank you for spending time for this interview, Coach.

Akana: No problem, thank you for supporting our program.


  1. anywaaaays!! March 12, 2017 12:55 pm

    The ILH is bouncing players around left and right, great players in all sports transfer into the ILH at all grade levels to help the ILH teams win their championship titles. Kahuku does the same thing and now its big news! wow! Hope to see more articles like this when the ILH wins their next championship.

  2. Just Play March 12, 2017 3:24 pm

    OIA players gotta sit out one year if they go to an ILH school. And vise versa. But yah. Happens a lot in the ILH. Public schools gotta just keep winning the championships!

  3. anywaaaays!! March 12, 2017 10:09 pm

    @JustPlay, you are right the public school coaches and familys need to know how to game the system similar to what the ILH coaches have been doing for years. Coach Akana used his family ties to bring in Fotu and his Nephew Villa and all of a sudden a public school wins the title. Goes to show that when the playing field is even and public schools have access to recruiting some talent they can beat the ILH schools. The ILH coaches are overrated, they survive off of recruiting more talent then everyone else.

    The ILH schools use money, prestige and resources to recruit their talent. Once they get the talent and win championships all the younger kids want to go to that school. Family pride is what attracts talent to Kahuku.

    “The school doesn’t make the player, the players make the school” – Lavar Ball (Father of the Ball brothers)


  4. Tafena_Costa March 13, 2017 6:34 am

    You right. ILH crying foul on this is laughable. Avea only went Utah one year all of a sudden he’s a “recruit”. Villa born here, most his family here, comes back to play for his uncle nothing wrong with that. Even Fotu got family here, among them his sister playing at HPU. Kahuku definitely had more Hawaii born players than a lot of rosters in this state,

  5. Public School March 13, 2017 10:20 am

    So Fotu really did go back to NZ?

  6. Education First March 13, 2017 12:37 pm

    @anyways, I do not recall any ILH players who won the title and then immediately left the school to go home.

    I am all for any player to change school if they feel that school would benefit them in anyway from academics to athletics to music regardless if they are attending a private or public school.

    However, I find no honor in attending a school, winning a title, then leaving. I understand if there is a family emergency or whatnot. But if a kid came to win then immediately leaves, that kind of kills the spirit of competition.

    As for crying? Who is crying? And if you guys really go into the heart of these blogs, the ones usually crying are the same guys crying over and over again. It’s hardly anyone from the ILH and almost all of the OIA schools. The ones crying are the same ones who claim to represent one particular community.

  7. anywaaaays!! March 13, 2017 1:19 pm

    You dont hear about the ILH schools crying because when they want to get their way they dont go to a dead end blog and voice them selves. They go to the offices of the entity’s in charge to change the rules, hire their “own kind” to ref games, lobby for changes that tilt the competition in their favor, recruit and stack their teams with talent (Cal Lees Neighbor island recruiting).

    The Kahuku community have no other outlet to voice themselves other then social media and this dead end blog, no other OIA community wants to create waves because they all secretly aspire to join the ILH family, either that or they are just quietly bending over and taking it in the you know what. As much as every one bagged on Rod York in 2015 for stacking his Mililani team with recruits at least he showed some pride in his own community to build it from scratch and not sell-out to the ILH like how many athletes do every year. Much respect for Rod York.

    In Kahuku we have Aloha and respect for everyone but don’t mistake our Aloha as weakness!

  8. Education First March 14, 2017 12:09 pm

    I disagree. I recall parents waiting on the football field trying to physically confront Coach Reggie Torres when he was first hired. I also recall moms going on TV last year with attempts to get a fine man like Alan Akina fired. Is that your definition of Aloha?

    As for weaknesses, I would say standardized test taking and being eligible through the NCAA Clearinghouse are some of the weaknesses of that community.

  9. anywaaaays!! March 14, 2017 1:37 pm

    What community are you from EDU? I remember you saying last year you are from Lowell High School in San francisco.

    Since you are so critical of Kahuku, why dont you do a comparison of your High school with the Athletics AND Academics at Kahuku, and if your alma mater is so much more superior in both then I can begin to understand why you think you are so much better then us island people.

  10. anywaaaays!! March 14, 2017 11:34 pm

    Hey Edu, you said in the other comments section you attended Punahou before transfering to Lowell High in Sanfran. Ok. So you are an elitist talking crap about our public school kids education. Wow! How honorable of you.

    …ps. and why are my comments about exposing this former Pun student keep getting deleted? Is it bad press for StarAdvertiser that one of the most vocal posters on this blog the past 2 years calling Kahuku students stupid and their alumni “burger flippers” bad press for Punahou?

  11. BG Grad July 9, 2017 2:11 pm

    notice how anywaays doesn’t refute education first.

    but based on how the comments in this section is going right now, kahuku fans here be like “ILH recruits! ILH recruits! they’re dirty! they just recruit!”

    then when it’s pointed out that Kahuku recruits, they go “ILH recruits because of prestige of academics and the schools themselves. Kahuku recruits by family connections! so our recruiting is okay!”

    what a joke. just accept that all schools recruit and move on. kahuku fans posting here are really coming off as clowns right now

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