In the aftermath of a 68-62 win over Kailua, ‘Iolani coach Dean Shimamoto thought of one thing.
The Running Raiders could do more. No. 4 ‘Iolani is now 5-0 in preseason action. The win over unranked Kailua is a gem worth building on. Kailua is putting together a strong nucleus — 6-foot-6 Isaiah Hopson did not play in last week’s loss to Baldwin — and was coming off a 68-63 win over No. 8 Kamehameha.
Shimamoto knew it would be a good test. His laboratory, at least so far, is a reversion back to a time four, five season ago when the Raiders ran the floor. And ran. And ran.
“Our possession count is up by about 30 percent,” he said. “But funny enough, there’s times when it feels like we could push it even more.”
Example: ‘Iolani pushed the pace hard in a game against Waipahu and ended up “in the 90s,” Shimamoto said.
“They didn’t have all their guys and weren’t ready for the pace,” he said.
Still, he would be satisfied with a possession count over 90 every game. That’s how fast and how deep this year’s squad is. Then again, things could change in a heartbeat. A few seasons ago, the Raiders ran like crazy, and then at midseason, changed the entire platform after a blowout loss. The change worked brilliantly as the Raiders won the state title that 2013-14 season.
It’s not just pace. The Raiders have an improved corps of shooters this season — reps in the gym year-round never hurt — and were a whopping 13-for-39 in the win over Kailua. Shimamoto, who has guided the Raiders to three state championships (2010, ’14, ’16), called it a “fun game.”
The Surfriders were a solid 38 percent from the arc (6-for-16), but the volume and math favored the Raiders. Sam Wheeler hit four treys and led the Raiders with 22 points against Kailua. The usual gunners hit 3s: Frank Felix (two, 15 points), Kawika Lee (10 points), Noah Bumanglag. There were bonus 3s from reserves Carter Kamana, who hit three treys, and Wesley Yamada.
“I just like good, efficient basketball, fast or slow. But we do try to pick the scheme that works best for our teams and players in a given year,” Shimamoto said.
The ’13-14 team adapted in mid-stream, which is rare for a high school squad. Two years later, ‘Iolani won with 6-foot-8 Hugh Hogland (now at Portland) in the middle, using a slower pace.
“We had Hugh, so if we were firing that many 3s, he wouldn’t have gotten as many touches inside,” Shimamoto said.
Working persistently on 3-point shooting and running the floor probably doesn’t hurt when it comes to defending a team that has the same values. Kalaheo shot 3-for-24 against the Raiders on Thursday in ‘Iolani’s 56-52 win. Coincidentally, Kalaheo then made 13 treys one day later in an 81-79 loss to No. 2 Punahou.
“That helps,” Shimamoto said, referring to the daily reps and conditioning. “But pace also causes fatigue, which can result in lower percentages.”
Shimamoto stopped short of comparing this year’s Raiders to teams that have wreaked havoc by using high pace and long-distance shooting, such as the vintage Grinnell College teams of the past two decades. Division II Hawaii Baptist has taken a similar approach under Coach George Weeks, Shimamoto added.
“Pieces of what we do are taken from Grinnell,” Shimamoto said. “But full Grinnell is the next level. We wouldn’t go that far. It takes a lot of time to build skills to that level. It takes a lot of reps.”
Shimamoto was a standout guard as a player at ‘Iolani, then evolved as a coach with different, flexible schemes. For now, at least, it’s a good time to be a Raider, or even a Raider in waiting. Any sixth grader on campus has the time to build a perimeter shot into something otherworldly. The coach recommends 200 to 300 3-point shots daily.
“That’s 200 to 300, made 3s,” he said.