Kodee Viena is taking the road home.
The former Star-Advertiser All-State selection from Maryknoll has transferred to Hawaii after two seasons at Hope International (Calif.). She and another ILH hoopster, Kylie Yung of ‘Iolani, are walk-ons for the Rainbow Wahine.
Viena was also an All-Defensive team pick by coaches and media as a senior in the 2017-18 season.
At Hope International (19-10), she played with former Maryknoll teammates Rhianne Omori and Isabelle Halemano. In 25 games played last season, Viena averaged 6.6 points and four rebounds per game. She was third in minutes played, 19.6 per game in NAIA play.
Viena’s season-high was 22 points against in an 86-49 loss to Hawaii last December at Stan Sheriff Center. She also scored 22 in a season finale against William Jessup (Calif.).
Conditions in California caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led her parents to exercise caution. She returned home in the spring and expected the upcoming year to be a blank slate, athletically.
“Originally, I was thinking I would stay home all four years at Hope. Then COVID happened, so it brought me home from April. It came to July and I applied to UH and got in. I had to tell my coaches because my mom didn’t want me to go back to California because conditions were bad there. That was my parents’ main concern,” Viena said on Thursday. “The main thing was me being safe and healthy.”
She began classes at Hawaii in August as a regular student. That didn’t last long with a father, Dean, and uncle, Dino, who were All-OIA stars at Waipahu in the 1980s. Two older brothers — Bulla and Drew — who were prominent players at Saint Louis and AOP, respectively.
“I wasn’t originally going to play, actually. I got into UH in August. My family actually influenced me, ‘Maybe you should just reach out to the coaches.’ I thought I was going to sit out because I didn’t know what this year was going to look like. Sit out and find a school next year, maybe, but I reached out to Coach (Laura) Beeman and they gave me the opportunity,” she said. “Honestly, it’s a blessing, so now I’m a part of a great program. I was probably one of the last ones. I was really late in.”
Hawaii was 16-14, including 9-7 in conference play, but lost key starters like Julissa Tago (15 points per game) to graduation. Viena’s strength, shooting range, rebounding and overall versatility could help.
“I think this team is really new. I’ve met a lot of the girls. I think Coach Beeman and her staff have a really good system and they’re going to keep this going. They still have Amy and a lot of returnees that set the tone at each practice. They bring a lot of energy,” she said.
Life away from home was a valuable chapter.
“I’ve learned a lot throughout my two years. Being a student-athlete, it’s all time management and sleep is really important. Honestly, being a good communicator with your coaches and teammates is a big key. I’ve learned a lot about myself when it comes to playing,” she said.
“I know I’ve grown as an individual playing-wise. A lot of decision-making when it comes to basketball, being more patient and more poised when it comes to decisions in games. And also when it comes to your teammates. Everyone reacts different, and I learned that everyone feeds off each other, so feeding off your teammates every moment, every practice is important. Work ethic is also very important.”
Viena played softball and volleyball in addition to basketball as a keiki. There were often days when she would play all three sports, and she thrived on the constant grind. As a young hoopster, she played against boys regularly, outrebounding and outplaying most. By high school, she pared down to two sports, then one.
“A lot of people don’t know volleyball was my first sport. Basketball ended up being my favorite sport when I was 14. It worked out playing all those sports. It helped with a lot of things in basketball, adjusting to different techniques, mobility. It always kept me in shape. I was always on the go, and now I definitely miss it. It’s different,” she said.
On a roster and her birth certificate, Dakota Viena is her official name. To coaches, teammates, family and friends, it has always been Kodee.
“Everybody calls me Kodee. I don’t know how I got my name. I was probably in preschool by that time. My mom’s best friend’s daughter is Kolbe, and we’re two days apart, so it’s always been like that. I can’t remember,” she said. “My mom (Leslee) could never keep me inside. I was always outside getting dirty, playing with my brothers. She always knew she was going to play sports when I was dribbling when I was little.”
Competing against older brothers, and younger brother, Malosi, sharpened her resolve.
“That mental toughness is a big part in games and in life, I’d say its important. Playing with the boys sure helped me in the long run, and having older brothers, for sure. I guess everything comes down to your mindset and what you put your mind to. You’re always going to have to go through different obstacles and it’s your decision what you’re going to do next. You can use it to motivate yourself to do better,” Viena said.
Back home, surrounded by basketball lifers, the push to improve never ends.
“We’ve been having (UH basketball) meetings (online). I’ve been lifting at home. We have some weights here. And I’ll be running and doing some drills that my brothers have me do. We make do. Sometimes, we’re on the road by our house or in the driveway. We have to do what we can,” she said.
She is going to major in psychology.
“Maybe I’ll become a sports psychologist. That’s a big part of it, the mental side,” she said. “But first, I’m hoping to play overseas after college.”
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “My Hero Academia” (Hulu). “It’s one of my favorites. I’m a huge anime fan. Different characters have different powers. The main character is a nerd and ends up becoming really strong.”
2. “Like Mike.”
3. “The Last Dance.”
Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. Steak. “Honestly, anywhere that has steak. Maybe Outback. I like mine well done.”
2. Chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. “Dave’s Ice Cream in Aiea. I was there two weeks.”
3. Macadamia nut pancakes, Boots and Kimo’s (Kailua). “That’s super good, with their macadamia nut syrup. It’s super good. I was there on my birthday (in July). I’m not even a pancake person, but theirs is good.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Lil Durk. “He has a lot of really good songs. Maybe ‘Three-Headed Goat’.”
2. Polo G. “Twenty-one.”
3. Lil Baby. “Off White Vol Loan.”
Viena: “To my brother and sister-in-law, Bulla and Kanani (Danielson) for having their new baby, Matea. I know she’s going to be a future All-American like her mom, a four-timer, and we’re all going to be fans. Anything she does, we’ll always be there for her.”