Kalani girls hoops undergoes major changes with former UH player Justice Sueing now in charge

The Kalani girls basketball team looks much different this year after Justice Sueing took over as head coach for Chi Mok, who resigned. Photo by Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

The Lady Falcons of Kalani have soared in recent years.

They still may soar in the 2019-20 season, but it will be without Chi Mok, who resigned as head coach of the girls basketball program. His departure came after incoming transfer Jalen Tanuvasa, formerly of Maryknoll, moved to Las Vegas.

Add to that two more huge blows. Kalena Halunajan, one of the state’s top junior guards, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the offseason. Halunajan was No. 10 in the Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15 last season, averaging 16 points per game, and scoring in double figures in all 29 of Kalani’s games last season. Another junior, sharpshooter Alayna Akiona, transferred to Kaiser after Mok stepped down.

Halunajan was due for another big season, but watched longingly. Her left knee is in a brace, crutches close by. She had surgery on Friday and will begin rehab work next week. The injury occurred during offseason club basketball.

“I jumped up for a rebound and landed wrong,” Halunajan said. “I want to play already.”

Mok responded on Wednesday afternoon. His departure from Kalani was by mutual decision. He asked, and hopes, that his situation be held in a positive light.

“I appreciate my time at Kalani. I enjoyed it. It was time to move on,” he said. “I just want to coach. Teach the game. Teach the kids.”

Mok previously coached in ‘Iolani’s program and has since returned.

“We added him onto our JV staff a couple of weeks after he left Kalani,” ‘Iolani coach Dean Young said.

In the meantime, Kalani hired former Hawaii basketball player Justice Sueing to lead the girls basketball program. Sueing’s son, Justice Jr., played at Maryknoll as a freshman before transferring to Mater Dei (Calif.).

Just like that, last year’s OIA Division I runner-up is a shadow of its former self. Gone to graduation are current Utah State freshman Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole, swingman Shelby McDaniels, two-way backcourt playmakers Daesha Viela and Heidi Kishaba. Also gone is Kandyce Woods, their post scorer who left the team before the state tournament last year. She graduated, but her father, Jeff, is now an assistant coach under Sueing.

The Lady Falcons played their first game of preseason on Wednesday afternoon, falling to Mid-Pacific at McKinley’s Black & Gold tournament. Sueing was a physical, explosive, energetic and disciplined player at Hawaii back in the day.

“It’s early. I’m not worried about it. They showed their moments, man. That’s what I want to see. We had more ups than downs today,” Sueing said. “We have players. All we need are people who can run up and down the floor, and listen, and execute, you know? Teaching them what to take in I’m saying and applying it on the court. Take that effort and energy, and make it work. Absorb it, then bloom from it.”

Sueing tempers expectations as a high school head coach, not just with players he’s never coached before, but his daughters, too. They’re tall by Hawaii standards, 5-foot-11 and 5-10, but are relatively new to organized hoops. He chuckles when he talks about them.

“They just asked about playing. They asked late. I wish they’d asked me at 10,” Sueing said.

Tanuvasa actually attended Kalani for a month during this fall semester, according her father, Shane. Plans to expand his brother’s solar energy business in Las Vegas changed their lives. At Faith Lutheran, Jalen Tanuvasa — a Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15 selection as a junior — will be part of a team that will play in three holiday tournaments.

The first tourney is just after Thanksgiving is at Liberty, where former Mililani point guard Dahlis Sablay now goes to school. After that, Faith Lutheran goes to the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona.

On the first weekend after New Year’s, the team will go to a showcase tourney in San Diego.

“Some colleges are requesting her practice and game schedule,” Shane Tanuvasa said.


  1. really November 14, 2019 12:02 am

    Kalena didn’t get hurt in club. She was trying out for the Native Hawaiian Team. While practicing at Hongwanji, she got hurt. They are trying to make some under 18 and 16 teams.

    Mok got forced out. He’s too good of a man to tell the truth and make the school and admin look bad.

    School also didn’t check Coach Sueing’s background.

    Kalani is a mess.

  2. Falcon Future November 14, 2019 8:40 am

    LOL, as soon as I saw the headline I knew something was fishy about the situation. When a head coach like Chi from a successful varsity team leaves to be an assistant for another school’s JV team, you know something’s wrong.

    I have a feeling @really might be on to something and Kalani is falling. Its always a sign of something when kids transfer out. I am also wondering what credentials Sueing has other than playing at UH 30 years ago? Was he coaching another girls varsity team before this?

  3. BLACK HAWK DOWN November 14, 2019 8:53 am

    Kalani School are u serious? You hired Burgla (screen name on HPW) as an assistant coach , the same person who was putting down the program and critisizing the coaching staff all last year because his daughter wasnt getting playing time , because coaches claimed she was out of shape, and she quit on her team (selfishly) during the state tournament last year. WOW, doesnt the DOE do background check?

  4. July November 14, 2019 11:08 am

    This isn’t the WNBA folks. The dysfunction of the program has shown for years, for those who cared to notice. It just finally became obvious to most last year. This is a welcome change. We wish the new coaching staff and their players the best. Have some fun playing some ball!

  5. Hmmm? November 14, 2019 2:29 pm

    Kalani is a secret school. Maryknoll’s Kelly Grant
    Coached Boys B-ball there years ago and suddenly was replaced. Ask the Admin. about him, but he went on to Kaimuki…Does anybody do background checks???

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