There was a time, not so long ago, when LaToya Wily and Chico Furtado were not coaching counterparts.
In fact, Wily was one of the top hoopsters in the state, and she departed from Kahuku to play at Furtado’s girls basketball juggernaut at Kalaheo for a season. Furtado, now coach at Maryknoll, remembers it clearly.
“That was some crazy times. She played for me one summer with Hawaii Select. Then she came over after her freshman year. Leaving a community to play for another school, that whole year was kind of rough,” Furtado recalls.
Wily returned to Kahuku for her junior and senior seasons, putting together one of the finest prep careers in state history. Back in a time when student-athletes flipped-flopped from one program to another in the quest for championship culture and vibe, Wily was an alpha baller from head to toe, in skills and attitude.
That’s why Furtado isn’t surprised that the former college player is turning into a coach with plenty of potential, even though Kahuku was largely outmatched in an 80-28 loss to Maryknoll on Saturday afternoon at Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium.
“Regardless of whether it’s at Kalaheo or somewhere else if they’re coaching, I appreciate seeing young people coach,” Furtado said. “Look at my staff. I’m 59 and my two assistants are older than me except Nikki (Fu). The time commitment is tough.”
Time is something Wily is willing to invest. The Lady Raiders were competitive last season, but in year two, she has mostly freshmen and sophomores learning on the job at the varsity level. The long-range plan is reasonable: to build up the feeder programs, much the way volleyball clubs have funneled talented, skilled players to the school.
Kahuku also didn’t play with Sisilia Kaufusi, a powerful post player who transferred back to Kahuku after attending Maryknoll.
“She got injured (Friday). The girls didn’t just give up in the end. They fought to come back,” Wily said. “I scheduled intense games outside the OIA: every single ILH (Division I) team, plus the Lahainaluna and Konawaena tournaments.”
One senior. Three juniors. And a bunch of pups.
“We’re getting them exposure, and we see what we need to work on. Maryknoll is a great team. I can’t wait for the day when our girls have the basketball IQ they have,” Wily said. “The biggest thing is we don’t have year-round basketball players.”
If this sounds like a familiar theme, that’s because it might be someday.
“Our girls from third to sixth grade are good players. We’re trying to develop the older girls, but other programs (like Maryknoll), by the time they’re in ninth grade, they’re developed,” Wily noted.
The solution, perhaps, is Loto Atoa Hoops, a club Wily and her family started.
“My sister, Artevia, coaches my JV and we coach our nieces and my baby sister, Popo,” Wily said.
Popo, a team manager for the Lady Raiders, is tall and strong. She might turn into the next LaToya Wily. She’s only in sixth grade.
“She’s better,” Wily said, “than the both of us.”
For now, though, no Hawaii team has come close to challenging Maryknoll. Stocked with seasoned, uber-talented seniors, the Spartans are 7-0 and outscoring opponents 60.3 to 26.9. They’re doing it despite a litany of zone defenses, and scoring in bulk without employing a lot of fullcourt pressure. They tinker a bit, as they did on Saturday with small doses of halfcourt traps.
They had a modest 10-4 lead after one quarter against Kahuku, then went on a tear by using skip passes against a 2-3 zone, looking steadfastly for that extra pass and layup. In all, the Spartans made six treys, but it was their court vision that was the biggest separator. Kodee Viena scored 14 points off the bench, while Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole added 12. Rhianne Omori scored nine points and center Isabella Cravens, playing against her hometown team, controlled the paint and the boards. Chayse Milne, who also came off the bench, added seven points.
Ilaisa‘ane Pooi and Liana Holani led Kahuku with six points each.
“The way we played from the second quarter on was better,” Furtado said. “When we bring Chayse and Kodee off (the bench) first and combine those two, the energy we bring is good. When we play together and we play for each other, I don’t have to do anything. I don’t think my kids are intentionally selfish, but because they’re so talented and gifted, we might not make that extra dish.”
Well, the dishes were non-stop for the Spartans after the first quarter. For the young Lady Raiders, it might be a turning point. It might not be a pivot to instant success, but now they see the blueprint. The commitment. The potential. In a wide-open OIA, maybe the time is coming much sooner.