Q&A: ‘Iolani Classic coaches chime in

Ben McLemore is one of many stars Oak Hill has brought to Hawaii over the years. FL Morris / Star-Bulletin

With 16 coaches, seven from the mainland and nine from the islands, the lure of the ‘Iolani Prep Classic proves universal every year.

This season, the longstanding tournament has drawn teams from as California, Oregon, Utah, Indiana and Florida. Locally, the longest trip was made by Hawaii Preparatory Academy of the Big Island. Here’s what coaches had to say about playing in the 2018 Classic.

>> What has the travel been to the islands been like? Anything unusual? 

David Sobel, Sierra Canyon (Calif.): Sierra Canyon enjoys coming to the ‘Iolani Classic very much.  The fans, the venue, the overall experience is one of the best high school tournament basketball offers.  The hospitality provided by the tournament is outstanding and we are excited to bring our basketball team to Hawaii.  

Tyler Toney, West Linn (Ore.):
Travel has been very good coming from the West Coast out to Hawaii. Many of our kids’ first time coming to the islands. 

Randy McAlister, Pleasant Grove (Utah): We did have a few players who had never flown before, and was nervous, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary. 

>> Has the vibe been any different at practice with a trip to Hawaii on the schedule? 

Randy McAlister: No. This is a special honor for us to play here. However, we define our season by how we finish the year at the state tournament. So, our practices have been with that in mind. 

Tyler Toney: We’ve been very excited and looking forward to coming to the ‘Iolani Classic since before the start of the season. This means a lot to our program to make a return trip. 

David Sobel: The difficult part of the travel for us is that our kids are in finals week. They took a few finals back in California and will take a few here over in Hawaii in the coming days. Tomorrow, we will take a snorkeling excursion to give the teams little taste of Hawaii.  

>> What is best plate lunch ever at the concession stand?

Randy McAlister: Our first game isn’t for a few days, so we haven’t had one yet. However, one of my assistants who lived here swears by the Teriyaki beef. 

Walter Marciel, Kailua: Mochiko chicken plate.

Ron Durant, St. Francis: I’m a Spam musubi guy.

Ryan Hirata, Mid-Pacific: Roast pork and mochiko chicken.

Steve Hathaway, Roosevelt: The chili plate.

Fred Wawner, Hawaii Prep: We’ve never attended the tournament. He have poke nachos at our concession — a crowd favorite.

>> What is your adrenaline level for a Classic game compared to a typical preseason game?

Steve Hathaway: Adrenaline level is the same to me. Every game has to be treated the same to me. We have to get up for every team the same. Yeah, we are generally playing better competition with the mainland teams, but the kids have to treat every game the same. I know I do.

Ron Durant: This is our first time in tournament. Excited to face a nationally ranked team!

Ryan Hirata: Every game is a great opportunity, but to play and watch some of the best high school teams in the country is always a special moment that every local player will remember. 

Randy McAlister: We treat every game like it is our most important. We are excited for the possibility to play Sierra Canyon and/or Montverde, who are the top of the national ranked teams, so that does create a level of excitement for us! We have a special team this year with an outstanding guard line along with a 7-4 center. 

Fred Wawner: Our adrenaline will be sky high, as we are scheduled to play one of the best, most talented teams in the country. Each game will be against good teams who are well prepared. We will need to be at our best each day. 

Steven Leopoldo, Farrington: My adrenaline is always the same every game. I’m the kind of coach who wants to be in it all the time.

Wyatt Tau, Campbell: Very high for the Classic. High for the season.

David Sobel: I am excited to be coaching the Trailblazers in this tournament. My approach has always been one game at a time, but unlike other preseason games, it’s not just about one game. It’s about stringing games together with quick turnarounds. Here with four games in four days, I am excited to see how my team responds to the crowd, the competition, and the rigors of four games in four days and the goal of bringing another ‘Iolani championship back to California.

>> Is this a good year to enter the ‘Iolani Classic?

Steve Hathaway: Always a good year to get an invite to the Classic. We happen to have a pretty good team as long as we are healthy.

David Sobel: As the defending Open Division champions in California, this is a great time for us to be coming to Hawaii. We were tested in our last four local games in California and look forward to the great competition in Hawaii.

Fred Wawner: It is always a good year to enter, based on how amazing the tournament is. In terms of our team, we have several players back from a team that won our league last year. We are still relatively young and the ‘Iolani Classic will be a major learning experience.

>> My favorite memories of the Classic are:

Steve Hathaway: My favorite memory was one my dad told all the time before he passed. He was sitting with a team from Florida, and Kahuku was getting ready to play. They did the Haka and they were coming at the crowd, and one of the players from Florida says, ‘They aren’t going to eat us, are they?’

David Sobel: My favorite memory of the tournament was when I was the assistant coach for Sierra Canyon three years ago and we had a great fourth-quarter comeback led by Remy Martin and Cody Riley on the way to the championship victory over La Lumeire.

Walter Marciel: Two years ago, beating Corona Del Sol (Ariz.).

Ryan Hirata: In 2016, we played No. 1 Findlay Prep in the opening game and scored the first basket to take a 3-0 lead on a Jacen Kimura 3-pointer. 

Ron Durant: The mid-1980s.

Steven Leopoldo: Memories are with the girls when my daughter (Brydgette) was playing in 2010 when the Lady Govs beat the No. 4 team in the country.

Wyatt Tau: When we won the Division II Classic against a team from Mobile, Alabama when I was with Aiea High School back in 2007-08.

>> Who is the best team you ever witnessed at the Classic?

Ryan Hirata: 2003 Oak Hill with Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith. 

Steve Hathaway: Probably the Oak Hill team in 2014, but that is really a hard question to answer because there are always great teams here.

Walter Marciel: Best team I ever witnessed at the Classic is Fairfax (Calif.) and Montrose Christian (Md.) in 2005.

Steven Leopoldo: The best team was La Lumiere my first year we entered.

>> Who are the best 5 players you ever saw at the Classic?

Ron Durant: Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, Tyson Chandler, Dennis Scott, Malik Sealy.

Walter Marciel: Kevin Durant (Montrose Christian), Chase Stanback (Fairfax), Joshua Shipp (Fairfax), DeMarcus Cousins (LeFlore), Ben McLemore (Oak Hill).

Ryan Hirata: 1. Kemba Walker, Rice; 2. Joseph Young, Yates; 3. Rajon Rondo, Oak Hill; 4. Aaron Brooks, Franklin; 5. Momo Jones, Oak Hill.

Steve Hathaway: Kevin Durant, Boogie Cousins, RJ Barnett, Josh Smith.

>> Who is the best pure shooter ever at IC?

Walter Marciel: Jerry Stackhouse (Oak Hill, 1992).

Ron Durant: Bob Hurley (St. Anthony, 1987).

Steven Leopoldo: I saw Dennis Scott and Jared Jackson. Haven’t been to much games.

>> The best scorer?

Walter Marciel: Kevin Durant (Montrose Christian).

Ryan Hirata: DeMarcus Cousins (LeFlore).

DeMarcus Cousins played in the ‘Iolani Classic in 2007. Star-Bulletin file photo.

>> The best defender?

Ryan Hirata: Justin Anderson (Montrose Christian).

Walter Marciel: Bob Hurley (St. Anthony, 1987).

Steven Leopoldo: Scorer and defender would be Jared Jackson. He could do everything for his team.

>> The best coach?

Walter Marciel: Stu Vetter (Montrose Christian).

Ryan Hirata: Steve Baik, Fairfax.

>> What is the greatest game you ever saw at IC? Or the greatest finish?

Ryan Hirata: 25th Anniversary Championship — Montrose vs. Oak Hill (3 OT).

Steve Hathaway: Probably Fairfax besting Durant’s team (Montrose) in the final.

Walter Marciel: The greatest game would have to be watching my two sons play for ‘Iolani against Montrose Christian and Kevin Durant back in 2005.

>> Who is the best dunker or dunk contest winner ever?

Ron Durant: Josh Smith.

Ryan Hirata: Brandon Peters (Yates).

David Sobel: I think Sierra Canyon has 3 pretty dynamic kids who can dunk. They are Cassius Stanley, KJ Martin and freshman Amari Bailey, who just committed to UCLA.  Each of them has highlight-reel dunks that have certainly made the rounds on social media. 

>> What are your thoughts on your first-round opponent?

Wyatt Tau: This is a rare opportunity for us, and our players are very excited to play the No. 1 team in the nation. We fully understand the level of our opponents so hopefully they play their back-ups early.

Ryan Hirata: Not only is Westchester a national powerhouse program that is filled with talent across the board, they are extremely well-coached and disciplined. 

Fred Wawner: We know Sierra Canyon is one of the best and most talented teams in the country. They are well-coached, run good stuff and play hard. This, coupled with their immense talent, makes them extremely dangerous. We will do our best to play at our own pace and not get too sped up. 

Randy McAlister: Moanalua is an athletic scrappy team. They will provide a great challenge to us. 

Steve Hathaway: West Linn is a very fast and good shooting team. I got a scouting report and some game film from a friend in Oregon, and they are good. Have shooters and some very athletic players. It will be a challenge to keep them off the glass.

Tyler Toney: Roosevelt has a pair of senior guards that are both scoring 16 points a game. We’re definitely looking forward to playing them to start the tournament. 

Ron Durant: I don’t know much about La Lumiere except Isaiah Stewart is projected first round NBA pick.

Walter Marciel: My thoughts on my first-round opponent (Oakridge, Fla.) is that they are very athletic, jump out of the gym and shoot the ball very well. 

Steven Leopoldo: My thoughts for our first round its going to be a great challenge hope my team is ready for it cause i will be.

David Sobel: We look forward to our opening round game.  They have some good guard play that should be a test for us.  Each game is an opportunity for us to get better and improve as a team with our ultimate goal of winning another Open Division state championship.

>> Who is this year’s tourney favorite? Or do you have a dark horse pick?

Steve Hathaway: I think Montverde is the team to beat.

Wyatt Tau: Sierra Canyon.

Steven Leopoldo: Favorite will be Montverde Academy.

Ron Durant: Montverde.

Walter Marciel:Randy McAlister: I’d I want to say that we are the darkhorse. But with teams like Montverde, Sierra Canyon, and Westchester, it could be anyone’s game.

Ryan Hirata: Montverde is the favorite, but La Lumiere and Westchester are the dark horses. 

Tyler Toney: There’s a number of good teams that have a chance to win it. Montverde, Sierra Canyon and La Lumiere all have quality programs. 

David Sobel: There are a lot of great teams in this tournament and we are just looking for the opportunity to compete at the highest level and show the country what Sierra Canyon basketball is all about.  

>> Define success for your team this week.

Ron Durant: Not having any injuries.

Walter Marciel: We must rise our level of play to compete in the ‘Iolani Classic.

Randy McAlister: It is a rare opportunity for us to play in such a coveted tournament. But we have big goals, and will look to compete in every game we play. 

Fred Wawner: We are honored to play in this tournament. Our goals are to compete every second, to continue to grow together as a group, and to improve our execution on both ends of the floor.

Ryan Hirata: I want to see us compete and get better in doing the little things correctly. I want us to appreciate this great opportunity to play in the best high school tournament in the country.

Steven Leopoldo: Success will be how discipline we are and reaching our team goals.

Wyatt Tau: Representing our school in the right way, playing with HEART, playing TEAM ball, being COMPETITIVE and beating the Hawaii teams.

David Sobel: Success for Sierra Canyon is about getting better each and every game. Obviously is goal is to win the tournament, but we are taking it one game at a time.  

Steve Hathaway: For us, we need to get healthy. (Micah) Visoria is coming off the ankle injury that sidelined him. I think if I can find others to step up when called upon then our team becomes deeper heading into the regular season. Competing all week will be success for us, that and staying healthy.


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