The Lady Spartans of Maryknoll are surging forward without fail.
There is no time to pause, not in the blueprint drawn up by coach Chico Furtado. Maryknoll is deep, talented, young. Nearly the entire lineup from last season’s all-underclassmen team returns. With summer-time success, Furtado dealt with something football coaches have seen for years.
Girls basketball coaches are finding the going tougher as talent at high schools shuffles in and out more than ever. During Furtado’s reign at Kalaheo, many players transferred in to play in the OIA’s top program at the time. More recently, at Maryknoll, he guided the Lady Spartans to four consecutive ILH titles.
In a span of 12 months, Maryknoll has seen its top player walk away. A year ago, Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole departed for Kalani before her senior year. This summer, another Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15 selection, Jalen Tanuvasa, is on the verge of moving to Las Vegas.
In spite of the losses, Maryknoll has continued to thrive. With a team entirely comprised of underclassmen, the Lady Spartans went 20-5 last year. They were 7-3 in league play, but missed the state tournament with only two berths allotted to the ILH. Maryknoll still was voted No. 5 in the Top 10.
Coach Furtado chatted with Hawaii Prep World about the changes and the momentum of the Lady Spartans.
HPW: Always interesting to catch up on Maryknoll girls basketball. What’s this summer been like?
Furtado: We’ve had a good summer league, some good new pieces in, and we’ll lean on Aloha (Akaka), Mahalo (Akaka) and Serenity Moananu.
HPW: They’re all still underclassmen?
Furtado: All will be juniors. All our starters return. We really like what we saw. We’re trying some different things at the point with Jalen not there. We have to figure that out. Mahalo and Aloha are bigger guards. Serenity is a muscular 4, inside-out, can take a smaller defender down low. Kyla Neumann, our lone senior, and the fifth spot will depend on who steps in. It could be Lily Koki. She’s done a good job this summer. We have a 6-foot freshman coming in, Taimane Auwae, she’s going to be a nice basket protector. She’ll sit in the post, has a nice mid-range, back-to-the-bucket. She reminds me of a young Bella (Cravens).
HPW: It still comes down to depth. Who do you have battling for starting roles?
Furtado: Marcus Tobin’s sister, Brandie, she’s gotten in the weight room.
HPW: How did summer league games go?
Furtado: We beat Kamehameha by 10 in summer league at Radford. Jalen played. We beat Punahou by 20 without Jalen. And then we split with (defending state champion) ‘Iolani. They didn’t add a whole lot. I heard a rumor that (Mokihana) Tufono was going to play.
HPW: She’s quite an athlete, 5-10 and was only a freshman. But ‘Iolani’s been through this before. Saige Ka‘aha‘aina-Torres was hoping to play basketball as a senior, but she got hurt and decided to take a pass.
Furtado: When Lily (Lefotu Wahinekapu) and Jovi (Wahinekapu Lefotu) played, we lost by six. When we beat then, we didn’t have Serenity and Lily Koki, and they didn’t have Lily and Jovi. The bottom line is, I’m sure people think because Jalen isn’t coming back — I would love to have her back, but we’re not going to sit in a corner and cry. If you think you’re going to come to Maryknoll and push us around because we don’t have Jalen, think again.
HPW: The ins and outs of coaching seems tougher every year. With Jalen’s family probably leaving the islands, when was the last time you heard from them?
Furtado: It’s been awhile. Jalen played with us for five or six games early in the summer league. We knew she was going to hook up with this Las Vegas summer league team. That was their plan way back.
HPW: Her father said that he hopes to expand his brother’s solar business, so they enrolled Jalen at Faith Lutheran and didn’t re-enroll at Maryknoll.
Furtado: The plan to not re-enroll was more recent. I try not to get in the way of what parents do with their kids. I have my own ideas and thoughts, but I’m not the parent. If you believe as a parent that there’s something better out there as a kid, you have all the right to look for it. A lot of our kids who have prospered playing basketball in the state of Hawaii and gone to exposure camps and clinics in the summer, the good ones have all gotten offers. So I don’t particularly buy into getting my kid more exposure. I get that, but I don’t have to watch a kid play 30 times to know if she can play. I can tell in four games or less.
HPW: True. A lot of club teams have played in Las Vegas, California, Chicago, the End of the Trail tourney in Oregon, and college coaches got their looks that way.
Furtado: Bella (Cravens, Eastern Washington) and Chase (Milne, Idaho) are playing at Division I schools. Kalina Obrey (Kamehameha, San Jose State) is going to a D-I school. Kylie Maeda (played) at BYU. You may be at a geographical disadvantage, but the club scene in Hawaii has allowed kids to get out to various venues. If you do a good job someone will see you. I hold no ill will, wherever Jalen goes, she will be fine.
HPW: So things in girls basketball are veering a bit toward what goes on in football with players and families relocating to the mainland. Or just flat-out changing schools.
Furtado: You see it in school, relationships. As a society we have lost that thing called common courtesy. There’s no thank yous. It’s what are you doing for me? It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. I’m not going to give up on kids because of a few issues. It’s not everybody.
HPW: It seems to happen way more today. When Kalaheo was dominating in girls and boys basketball, there was a lot of talent, but there wasn’t this kind of movement.
Furtado: (The late) Pete Smith had complaints. We would win OIA championship after championship and he would get anonymous letters about, ‘Why isn’t my son playing?’ That’s just part of it. That’s why I love it here at Maryknoll. I believe 100 percent of the time, (Athletic Director) Ben Valle got my back. The president of my school got my back. When I was at Kalaheo, I believed (AD) Lee Cashman got my back.
HPW: Elite coaches are going through it, being forced to change or walking away. At Kalaheo, Alika Smith wouldn’t sign the principal’s customized contract.
Furtado: There’s no doubt in my mind Alika Smith knows about basketball, but it’s getting more and more coaching has less to do with the sport, but more about the things around you. We’re successful at Maryknoll because the majority of people are on board, and when we have roadblocks we have administrative support to manage people and situations most of the time.
HPW: It’s not as common as it used to be.
Furtado: Kelly (Grant) just won a (boys basketball) state championship, but he has lost kids in the past. We lose kids all the time, but we’ll keep plugging. Just because you lose a kid for whatever reason, it shouldn’t dictate how you run your program. As coaches, we can’t appease everybody.
HPW: Do you think there are players who are complacent, but when they’re pushed to get better, they consider it an affront?
Furtado: Sometimes there are kids who don’t want to be challenged. Very talented, but they have one bad game and they sulk. They enjoy being in the individual limelight more than team success.