The sight of Dan Hale in a red Saint Louis coach’s polo shirt is a bit shocking.
Hale, the former Punahou standout player and state championship coach, is in his element as an adopted Crusader. With the new facility up and nearing completion sometime in mid-2020, the physical education teacher will also be involved in running the new gym.
Saint Louis, awaiting the return of as many as eight players once the football season is officially over, got a glimpse of the future on Thursday night. The Crusaders stayed with Kahuku before falling, 48-45, on the first day of the OIA-ILH Challenge at Moanalua High School gym. Saint Louis is 0-2 in preseason, which opened with a loss to OIA title contender Moanalua.
Malu Ing led Saint Louis with nine points. Avia Arquette and Kahaku Marquez scored eight points apiece, all in the second half.
Patience is essential as the Crusaders build in Hale’s first year.
“I’m just proud how our guys battled. We have guys who’ve worked in the offseason and are really trying to carve out a spot,” Hale said. “It’s a whole different animal in Virginia. There’s a lot more off-season stuff, but the guys have been great. They’re doing all I ask. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for, so it’s fun to be back.”
Saint Louis battled Kahuku and its new 6-foot-9 post, Oscar Cheng. The game was tied at 44 before Kahuku sophomore Amari Westmoreland-Vendiola sank two foul shots with 14 seconds left. Hale called time out, drew up a backdoor play, but the Crusaders misfired on a cut and pass that could have materialized as an easy layup. Kahuku hit two more foul shots to pull out a 48-45 win.
The Crusaders meet Kalaheo today at 7 p.m. On Saturday, they play Leilehua at 5 p.m.
Hale has leadership from Shoncin Revuelto and Caleb Shin.
“They’re two guys that have done a lot in the offseason. We’ve got a lot of guys that love basketball and they’re giving it their best,” Hale said.
The roster will round out in roughly two more weeks. The nationally-ranked football squad is preparing for a GEICO State Champions matchup on Dec. 21 in Las Vegas. The football hoopsters include a smooth southpaw playmaker in senior Isaac Silva, a starting slotback with the football team. Hale expects Jayden de Laura, their highly-recruited quarterback, to return, as well as some key big men in the post.
“They’ve come to a couple of practices already,” Hale said. “We’re trying to get them up to speed. The big guys, Kalan Ellis (6-5, 290), Nalu Liftee (6-4, 232) will give us some size inside. It’s going to give us more horses.”
Among the senior football players who won’t return to basketball is linebacker Nick Herbig, who will graduate early and enroll at Wisconsin for spring semester.
Hale starred at Punahou on three state-title teams before playing collegiately at Hawaii and Chaminade. Eventually, the guided Punahou to a runner-up finish in 2007 before the Buffanblu won the boys state championship in ’08. After three seasons as head coach, he and his family relocated to Virginia to be with his parents.
The Hale family moved back to Hawaii this year. Coach Hale spent a decade coaching in Virginia, lifting Marshall High School to three district titles after a half-century dry spell.
During his stint as Punahou coach, football players were a vital part of the hoopsters’ success. Manti Te‘o, Robby Toma and the late Kameron Steinhoff were major contributors.
As for the facility, the walls and roof are up as construction continues.
“It won’t be ready this year,” he said, noting that it could be done by June of 2020. “We’ll get some balls bouncing in that gym as soon as we can.”