This basketball thing seems to be arriving earlier every year.
Sure enough, the girls basketball preseason is here. It began last weekend with the Hanalani tournament, and resumes this week with a mix of one-offs and tournaments. The Black & Gold Invitational at McKinley tips off on Wednesday, and will likely provide the most compelling action between some of the state’s behemoths in roundball.
Here are big questions about the 2019-20 wahine season.
>> Is ‘Iolani prepared for life after Taylor Wu? The all-state guard didn’t have to carry the Raiders last year as they outraced foes en route to their first state championship since 1996. Wu’s presence and poise were key for a relatively young, talented group that includes sharpshooter Kyra Tanabe, hustling Kylie Yung, sisters Alexis Huntimer and Alexsandra Huntimer, and sisters Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu and Jovi Wahinekapu Lefotu.
>> How will Kamehameha contend without Kalina Obrey? The 2019 All-State Player of the Year was phenomenal as a senior as a virtual 20-10 producer each night. Her 3-pointer at the buzzer was wiped off after replay scrutiny, ending a thrilling 52-49 win by ‘Iolani in the state final.
>> Can Kalani regain the OIA crown? The graduation of key players, including Utah State recruit Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole, leaves some huge shoes to fill. However, the arrival of former Maryknoll scoring leader Jalen Tanuvasa is another big score for the Lady Falcons and coach Chi Mok.
>> Are the Maryknoll Spartans ready for the next move up? The Spartans lost Tanuvasa, who nearly moved to the mainland with her family. Maryknoll returns nearly its entire roster from last year, using a fullcourt press and quick tempo.
>> Is Kahuku prepared to keep control of the OIA? Two-time all-state guard Leiah Naeata is primed for a huge senior season.
>> Can Konawaena bounce back? The Wildcats saw their string of consecutive state titles end at three last season. Coach Bobbie Awa’s team will be among those in the Black & Gold this week.
>> Lady Lunas set to launch? Since winning the state championship in 2010 with Maiki (Tihada) Viela and Milika Taufa leading the way, Lahainaluna has returned to the state final twice, in 2014 and ’15. The Lunas have won 15 consecutive MIL titles, and their win streak in league play is at 162.
There are plenty more questions and scenarios. Waiakea returns a talented group led by senior Kelsie Imai, who is committed to Hawaii. Alika Smith, the former boys coach at Kalaheo and Punahou, is in his first season with the Warrior girls squad.
Hawaii Baptist, the defending Division II state champion, is off to a strong start after sweeping through Hanalani’s tournament. Mid-Pacific and Sacred Hearts have dropped down to D-II in the ILH.
Punahou’s 6-foot-4 center, Tama Fonoti, departed and is now at powerhouse Sierra Canyon (Calif.). Mililani point guard Dahlis Sablay is now at Liberty (Nev.).