Hawaii basketball bigs are rare. Bigs with immense talent are even more scarce.
That’s why the state’s fans just missed a large-scale collision. One year off to be exact.
Tolu Smith, who stands 6 feet 10, is here and ready to lead the Kahuku Red Raiders this season as they defend their Division I state title. But Hugh Hogland, ‘Iolani’s 6-9 man in the middle for four seasons, is now playing in college — at D-I Portland.
“It would have been a war,” Raiders coach Dean Shimamoto said on Saturday after ‘Iolani’s 45-40 victory over Kahuku in the OIA-ILH Challenge at the Moanalua gym. “Those are both Division I level talents, bigs — and it doesn’t happen too often in Hawaii. That would have been fun to see.”
Hogland was a defensive master. Only astute observers fully noticed just how much acrage he was covering under the basket. And Hogland’s offense flourished as his high school career went on.
Smith, who has committed to Western Kentucky, is an agile attacker who also has a fine midrange shot and is proud about his defense.
“It would have been great to see (Hugh vs. Tolu) because Hugh was the last legit center,” Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said. “I don’t remember us having one. It’s been a lot of years. Tolu is a legit big and in the state of Hawaii, you don’t see enough of them. It’s a treat. ‘Iolani kind of rolled with him all those years, and now they’ve gotta change.”
The hoped-for matchup of Smith against Hugh’s brother Cole Hogland, who is 6-foot-4, did not materialize Saturday in the preseason tournament. Smith is out with a sprained wrist he suffered when he fell in a recent win over Nanakuli, but he is expected back soon. Smith is also in a walking boot, but the sprain is minor, according to his dad, Galen Smith.
Hogland, who signed to play volleyball for the University of Hawaii, finished with 12 points in the win.
Kahuku’s Ruanui Winitana, a transfer from New Zealand, scored 13 points in the loss, including a 3 from the top of the key at the final buzzer.
“He’s from Laie,” coach Akana said. “He left when he was young and lived in New Zealand and returned back for his senior year and has family here. He’s a true point guard, very experienced and is going to be a leader of the team. He’s still getting used to the system and I think he’ll get better and better.”
Akana and his assistants were not pleased with some of the team’s defensive board work Saturday.
“Little things like boxing out,” he said. “‘Iolani scored close to 20 points on putbacks of offensive rebounds. We need to work on that and ‘Iolani does a great job of that. When you give up those second-chance shots — and they were all layups — it hurts us. Give them one shot, box out, rebound. But they got multiple shots on offensive rebounds.”
The Raiders were without their starting guards, Justin Genovia, who is recovering from a collarbone injury suffered during football season, and Noah Bumanglag, who is expected to return from a concussion this week.
“It’s still preaseason and we’re working on combinations, working on executing properly, trying to build some good habits,” Shimamoto said. “I think we’re coming along, This is our second week of real games. Our defense (against Kahuku) was pretty good. Even when our offense isn’t there, the defense keeps us in games.”
The Raiders lost a 51-48 decision to Kahuku in the state semifinals a year ago, thereby missing a chance to defend their 2016 state championship in the final. Kahuku went on to beat Punahou in last year’s final, 70-55.
Is Shimamoto disappointed that he and his team didn’t get to see Smith up close and in uniform against his Raiders?
“I have not seen him play yet, but I’ve only heard good things,” he said. “On one hand, I would have liked for our kids to have played against him just to see where we are at against a guy of that caliber. On the other hand, it was a great game for us.”