Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is quite the strangest of times for Mark Arquero to become a varsity basketball coach.
Damien announced Arquero as the new coach on Friday.
“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting to do something like this for a while now,” Arquero said on Friday. “I’m proud to be an alumni. We made it to D-II states last year and it’s something to build on.”
He was a first-year assistant coach to Marco Johnson last season. Johnson stepped down after leading the Monarchs girls, who won their state-tourney opener before losing to Mid-Pacific in the quarterfinal round. The finished 11-9 (6-5 Interscholastic League of Honolulu).
“I believe they’re over on the mainland,” Arquero said of his former head coach. “He did let me know early in the summer that he wasn’t returning.”
Damien also announced the hiring of former Leilehua and Saint Louis coach Keith Spencer to guide the boys varsity team. Spencer’s son, RJ, is on the Monarchs’ squad.
Arquero inherits a talented squad that returns 12 of 14 players. That includes sophomore Theresa Anakalea, who scored 23 points per game last season. Also back in is the coach’s daughter, Tiare Arquero, who scored 15 points per game as a freshman.
Kaira Wengler and Kaycee Pitt graduated, but 6-foot center Gloriana Sua will be back. Anakalea is 5 feet, 6 inches tall. Tiare Arquero is 5-7.
“Theresa is a competitor. I’m excited for her to build on what she did last year. She and my daughter are looking to further their careers at the next level,” Coach Arquero said.
The surplus of depth is virtually unmatched in the ILH, perhaps statewide. Talented athletes dot the roster, including 5-10 sophomore Tiani Souza, a volleyball player.
“Resiliency. We had a very young team. Kaira and Kaycee did a great job as seniors. The core of our production was from freshmen,” Arquero said. “We had a handful of injuries, and a must-win game with Sacred Hearts (in the ILH playoffs), and we were able to overcome two injuries (to starters). I love our resiliency.”
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out summer league play and practices, and mainland trips for the most part.
“We know our returnees and we want to organize and get some workouts within protocols. That’s the bittersweet part of this position. I’m excited to get the position, but it’s not 100-percent go, so we have to plan accordingly and be ready,” Arquero said.
Arquero played under then-boys coach Byron Mello for three varsity seasons before graduating in 2001. After graduating from Seattle University, he returned and later coached at Our Lady of Good Counsel in the Catholic School League. He coaches his daughter with the 808 Stunnahz club team out of Ewa Beach.
The long wait for resumption of youth leagues has tested the mettle of the Monarchs. Players work out on outside courts, waiting patiently for competition. Arquero hopes that the ILH will allow coaches and players to get workout time before the targeted Jan. 4 start date for the regular season.
“I’d like a lightened version of the blackout period because we lost time to the quarantine. Outside, we’re still limited to no more than five players,” he said. “I’m hoping we can also get some leeway with using our facility so we can stay out of Parks and Recreation (courts). We’ve lost a lot of ramp-up time.”
Arquero hopes to use Zoom to connect with the team.
“I do want to explain to everybody the greater responsibility to the success of the state. No going to parties and being careless about it. It’s almost like simulating the NBA bubble. Student-athletes will need to take responsibility. Don’t put your teammates and other schools at risk,” he said.
“They’re all kind of waiting. I’m hoping we can meet up at the park, but we’ll find out what (Athletic Director) Eddie (Klaneski) says.”