When Jamm Aquino shot the photo of Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Player of the Year Maiki Viela, she had no idea — and neither did we — if she would get the honor.
The photo was taken the night Lahainaluna won its first state championship, and with the Lady Lunas set to return home early the next day, we played it safe and got posed shots of potential POYs, including Viela.
So, when we reached her on Saturday night to inform her that she was the Star-Bulletin POY, she was pretty excited. And busy. Viela was in Virginia, playing with the California Storm’s Team Taurasi. She’d ascended from backup to starter halfway through the elite tournament, but she was still thinking about home.
“Everything is happening so fast,” she said by phone. “I was happy to represent Lahaina and Coach Todd (Rickard) and everyone.”
Though she’s just a junior, she was the top point-getter in close voting with teammate Milika Taufa and Konawaena’s Dawnyelle Awa.
“It’s an honor to gain that award with all the great players out there. It’s crazy,” she said.
Viela probably would’ve been an all-star in several sports, but narrowed her focus down to hoops as she got older.
“I always did like basketball the best. Everything else was something to do in season. When I got to high school, I got more serious,” she said.
When she was added to Team Taurasi a couple of weeks ago, Viela was in awe of her new teammates, including sensational Chelsea Gray, a Duke recruit. She put her time in, though, all through off-season with running and conditioning.
The trip to the continent wasn’t lonely. Her dad, Chad, came along, while mom (Laurie) followed later.
“We won our first three games. Then we lost to a team that was ridiculously good. Everyone on that team is going to D-I (universities),” Viela said. “I got comfortable with our girls and coach had me starting.”
College scholarship offers could be coming soon.
“After the offseason, I’ll start thinking about it,” said Viela, who has a cumulative 3.4 grade-point average. “I think it’s still early.”
Her favorite subject is math. She’s currently taking Algebra II, which is one of the prerequisites to enter the University of Hawaii at Manoa.