Ledjan Pahukoa could have chilled out on the bucolic slopes of Haleakala over the three-day weekend.
Instead, she and her parents journeyed to Oahu on President’s Day to enjoy a full day of hoops at the 27th annual Mufi Hanneman Basketball Jamboree. The King Kekaulike freshman was active on both ends, launching long-range 3s, and standing her ground on defense. On a play during the tournament’s championship game, Pahukoa of Team Light Gray blocked a shot by ‘Iolani’s leading scorer, Lily Wahinekapu. Team Light Gray, coached by Kamehameha’s Pua Straight, defeated Team Dark Gray (Nicole Isemoto), 51-36.
King Kekaulike has become a destination rather than an exporter of talent over the past five years. Back then, an uber-talented player like Cameron Fernandez transferred to MIL powerhouse Lahainaluna. Now, talent like Pahukoa stays upcountry. The distance from home, in nearby Makawao, to the school campus is just a few minutes away.
The bigger reason, though, is the feeder program that has invested time and energy into some of the island’s most promising young hoopsters. Pahukoa’s father, Kai, coaches Pahukoa, sister Kreyajan and a younger brother. Six of the current Na Alii players originated from the Country Jacks club team that usually practices at Eddie Tam Gym.
Na Alii finished second in the MIL and gave Konawaena a scare before losing 40-37 in the state quarterfinals.
“Some of us couldn’t handle it, but we played our game. We were expecting to get smashed, so we just played our game. The result was the result,” Pahukoa said.
The Country Jacks club team also travels to tournaments.
“Our old Country Jacks players, they all transferred to Lahainaluna. Now, I just think that you should play in your own district, play for your own,” Pahukoa said. “We have (King Kekaulike) players from other clubs like (Maui) Sparks.”
Her set shot is deadly from out to nearly 30 feet. It’s a sight to behold, watching that rainbow shot from nearly the halfcourt logo splash through nets. She’s working on getting better in every way, however. King Kekaulike wants to go beyond runner-up in its league, or quarterfinal play of the state tourney.
“I think we can make it to states. I think we can win MIL next year,” said Pahukoa, who has a 4.0 grade-point average.
During the high school final, former mayor Mufi Hanneman presented the annual Gender Equity award to ‘Iolani athletic director Eddie Maruyama.
Mahalo and Aloha Akaka of Maryknoll were among the deep, talented rosters at the Jamboree. Recovered from the team’s flu bug during the state tourney, Aloha suited up for Team Black, coached by Chi Mok. Mahalo played for Team Dark Gray.
“It was fun getting the opportunity to play with all these other ILH girls,” Mahalo Akaka said.
The 2020-21 season will be stocked with returning talent at most of the state’s best programs.
“Next year, we’ll have our chance,” Aloha Akaka said.
The sisters are in softball mode now. Maryknoll coach John Uekawa gave the hoopsters a three-day rest break before stepping onto the diamond.
In the 14-under title game, the Sharks defeated 808 Basketball 55-17. Kalakaua took the 12-under crown with a 32-13 win over 808.