The busy-ness is part of the gratefulness for Jaety Mandaquit, who is featured with brother JJ in Tuesday’s edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The sophomore is already one of the state’s top basketball players, averaging nearly 12 points per game for No. 1-ranked ‘Iolani. The Raiders are 4-0 so far in ILH play.
“It’s a great start to our season. Our team chemistry is really good. We all play for each other, support each other and bring energy to each other’s game,” Mandaquit said. “Every game, we’re trying to improve.”
The Raiders are relatively young, reloading after losing a truly classic group to graduation. Jovi Lefotu is one of their senior leaders, a UH commit who sets the tone.
“It’s fun. Jovi brings a lot and offers a lot to the team. She’s just a great leader, always supporting and encouraging us to do our best,” Mandaquit said.
The legacy inherited by the 2021-22 Raiders is real.
“It would say there is pressure, but at the same time, it’s a fun experience just being able to be on the court and playing games with my teammates,” she added.
When she’s not fully immersed with hoops and studying — Mandaquit has a 3.5 grade-point average — she trains for soccer. As one of the top players for Surf Soccer Club, Mandaquit is a veteran of travel. She landed on college prospect lists back in seventh grade.
“She can’t be offered any packages officially because she’s still a sophomore, but she has interest from Division I programs like Sacramento State University,” Surf coach Kirsty Adams said. “Jaety is versatile enough to play any position, which is why she’s so valuable. Her best position is center-back, which is the position that controls the whole defense.”
Adams considers Mandaquit as fundamental and technical a defender as any in her level. The defense-first mentality carries over to the hardwood, as well.
“Jaety is explosive and is great at getting to the rim. She’s got a good 3-point shot as well even though she hasn’t taken many this season,” ‘Iolani girls basketball coach Dean Young said. “She’s extremely coachable, asks lots of questions and is very competitive.”
Young draws some elite comparisons for Mandaquit, who starred on the Raiders’ intermediate team two years ago, prior to the pandemic.
“Her competitiveness reminds me of Lily Wahinekapu since both hated to lose even during practice scrimmages. As a player, she kind of reminds me of Chanelle Molina since Chanelle is tough on offense and defense, has an inside game and outside game, and is athletic.”
Defense has always been her calling card, from her father’s Man Up teams in Hilo, to ‘Iolani’s stifling defensive packages.
“It’s simple. I feel like on defense, execute our defensive plan that we have. On offense, be unselfish and create our own shots attacking the rim,” said Mandaquit, who is 5 feet, 6 inches tall.
Her road to ‘Iolani is one less traveled. Mandaquit grew up in Hilo on basically the same block as her grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins. Hungry? One of her granddads always had something ono simmering or sizzling on the stove.
Need a hug? Her grandmothers were always there. With her talent level and work ethic, and the same for brother JJ — now one of the top hoopsters in Hawaii as a freshman — her parents considered enrolling them on Oahu for high school.
Then the progression sped up. By 2018, the family moved to Oahu and the siblings enrolled at ‘Iolani. They had also applied for Punahou, but Jaety was waitlisted.
That made the decision simple.
“It was a rough transition in the beginning being away from family after being in HIlo, being so close to them, but as time went on we got used to it. We could call them on FaceTime. I tried to FaceTime my grandparents once a week,” Jaety said.
But after they moved, one of her grandmothers was diagnosed with cancer. Ann Mandaquit passed away in ’18.
“I miss her positive energy. She was never negative and if she saw that me or my brother were having a bad day or not smiling, she would tell us to smile and be happy. I know she’s in a better place and she’s always watching us,” Mandaquit said.
“It was tough,” Jason Mandaquit said. “But they understood the bigger picture.”
The fit at ‘Iolani has been good. The question remained as Jaety excelled on the basketball court during eight grade, raining in 3-point bombs all season long: could she play both soccer and basketball at ‘Iolani?
“I discussed about it with my family and they told me their opinions. For high school, I was leaning more toward basketball because club soccer is year-round and that’s where we’ll get more exposure for college,” she said.
The questions are always there. Which sport does she like better? Can she do both in college?
“I would say I love both. I just have a strong passion for both games. No matter what sport I’m playing, a tied game at the end, I’m going to give it my all to help my team win,” she said. “Basketball is more continuous, I feel like.”
There is a dream school in Jaety’s heart.
“Washington. We kind of visited the athletic fields and stuff. We travel to Seattle a lot because we have family there. I just like the area,” she said. “It would be good, too, because I would have family I can visit.”
The training and reps don’t end. She works out with her dad, former Hilo guard and boys basketball coach Jason Mandaquit, who was All-State player of the year in 2000. Once hoops season ends – quite possibly with a third-straight state title for the Raiders — Jaety will have one week to prepare for a Surf soccer trip to the mainland.
She began play for Surf after Adams spotted her in a tournament on Maui. By sixth grade, Mandaquit was wearing a Surf jersey, playing for the Oahu-based club’s top travel team.
“They would travel to the mainland a bunch. She would be traveling to Oahu and meet with our friends. We have a good support system on Oahu. The Anderson twins are godfathers to our kids,” Jason Mandaquit said.
Playing for her dad, Jaety held her own and then some in boys leagues.
“Playing with the boys and with JJ growing up made her a really good defender. She was big growing up. She was the center and had to guard the biggest player,” coach Mandaquit said. “She’s just tough and takes pride playing defense.”
Life is busy. Life is good. She dealt with her grandma’s passing bit by bit. It’s not easy letting go. Her three favorite movies all have life and death as themes. Her massive, close-knit family stays in touch.
“My grandpa (Marshal Mandaquit) actually flew here to watch our ‘Iolani Classic,” she said.
The Mandaquits on Oahu regularly, weekly do FaceTime with their Mandaquit, Cazimero and Harris ohanas back on the Big Island.
While dad commutes back and forth, helping run the family roofing business, mom (Coty) gets their busy scholar-athletes to all their activities, training sessions. To and from school.
They lean on each other when they’re not strong.
“JJ is just a loving and supportive brother. He would do anything for me. He was just always a loving and caring person,” Jaety said. “Even though we can be competitive, we’re still loving at the end.”
Jaety’s name is a combination of her parents’ names, Jason and Coty. The key to her success in two sports and in school has been time management. Whether it’s during a school week or in the middle of summer, the juggling requires precision.
“She actually had a big tournament, a college I.D. tournament (in San Diego), the weekend right before basketball tryouts started. She’ll take a break from soccer, then another trip the week after basketball. Her soccer coaches are very understanding and they know she loves basketball, too,” Jason Mandaquit said. “It’s on her to keep her conditioning up, to touch a soccer ball. We totally left it up to her. The way it worked out with her getting exposure and college looks as early as seventh grade through her club soccer, she realized what she can get, what she needs by doing the club side.”
The byproduct of the demands of ‘Iolani’s academic grind is the same for athletes and non-athletes.
“Having time management skills gives us the confidence that she and JJ will have that balance when they go to college,” Jason Mandaquit said. “They’re a lot closer now than they were before. That doesn’t mean they talk a lot to each other, but when they do, it’s sincere. They support each other not only in sports, but academically. Questions about homework and school.”
At home, Jaety decompresses with movies and her new talent: cooking and baking. She has learned recipes from one of her grandfathers, Dana Harris. The other grandfather, Marshal Mandaquit, is a master of chicken papaya. Of course, JJ is her main taste tester.
“Her honey barbecue wings, it was amazing,” he said.
Jaety makes the sauce from scratch.
“I researched the sauce online. For the wings, I just put it in the air fryer,” she said. “I just started to cook it recently, so over the past week, I cooked it twice. I’ve made banana bread. The majority of the time I’m doing it myself, but my mom helps me.”
Jaety Mandaquit’s lockdown staples
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “Five Feet Apart”
“These high schoolers are living in the hospital because they have a sickness. They have to stay five feet apart. It really touched my heart, very emotional.”
“It’s based on a true story about football and how this kid grew up watching Arkansas football. He wasn’t the greatest player, but he worked hard and made his dream come true, but he passed away, too. It’s based on a real story.”
3. “Selena” (series)
“This is also on Netflix. There’s two parts to it. Just the way it shows how she grew up and over time became popular and stuff.”
Top 3 food/snack/drink
“Usually if we go out to a restaurant, that’s my go to. Sometimes, my mom or dad make it.”
2. Peach green tea (Starbucks)
3. Rice Krispies bars
“If we have it at home in our snack pile, I’ll eat one every single day. That was my go-to snack when we travelled in the summer.”
Carli Lloyd — “Whenever she’s on the soccer field she plays her hardest and gives all her effort. That’s what I like abut her.”
Sue Bird — “She’s just a very good, skilled player. Very high IQ in basketball.”
Stephen Curry — “Just the way he plays the game of basketball, just very unselfish.”
“Math in general. I just like to work with numbers and stuff. I would like to major in it in college.”
“I think it would definitely be higher without sports. I wouldn’t be depressed without sports, but I wouldn’t know what to do, but I would be lazy and watch Netflix every day.”
New life skill: Driving
“I started at a young age. I learned from both my parents. I would say my dad (is more patient).”
Hidden talent: Cooking and baking
“I just like recently been doing honey barbecue chicken wings. i’ve been learning some recipes from my grandpa. I researched the sauce online. and for the wings, I just put it in the air fryer. I just started to cook it recently, so over the past week, I cooked it twice.
“Baking, I can make something like a cake. I’ve made banana bread. Majority of the time I’m doing it myself, but my mom helps me.”
“To my parents. My basketball, soccer, strength training and shooting coaches. My teammates. And my entire family and friends, especially those back home in Hilo.”