Hilo High School’s Aliyah Pana has been named the 2013 Gatorade Hawaii Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
She is the first Viking to earn the prestigious honor in the 28 years of the national program, a collaboration of Gatorade and USA Today high school sports. Gatorade made the announcement on Thursday.
The award recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, according to Gatorade spokesman Joel Beck. It distinguishes Pana as Hawaii’s best girls basketball player this year.
Pana joins an elite alumni association of past state girls basketball award-winners, including Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central High School, Ill.), Diana Taurasi (1998-99 and 1999-2000, Don Antonio High School, Calif.), Maya Moore (2005-06, Collins Hill High School, Ga.) and Lisa Leslie (1988-89, Morningside High School, Calif.).
Pana, a 5-foot-8 junior guard/forward, averaged 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 1.9 assists per game while leading the Vikings (24-3) to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state semifinals. A first team HHSAA all-tournament selection, she averaged 20.5 points per game in the state tournament, including a season-high 24 in a 53-49 win over Iolani in the third-place game at Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.
According to Beck, Pana has maintained a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom.
She has volunteered locally on behalf of Special Olympics and has been a youth basketball coach with the Huiana Internship Program, a work-based learning experience that allows students to explore specific occuaptions and career paths.
“Aliyah is a leader on and off the court,” Hilo Athletic Director Sondra Lundvick said. “Not only is she an exceptional athlete and role model, she is also highly organized and detail-oriented. She is very humble and accomplishes everything with great initiative and a very positive attitude.”
Hilo coach Ben Pana, Aliyah’s father, praised his daughter’s leadership and commitment to team basketball.
“She worked really hard along with her teammates, and that played a big role in her getting this personal accolade,” he said. “She’s been a leader on and off the court. She’s had to learn to organize in the classroom, at practice, and in the community. She’s led by example, and as a coach and a father, I’m very proud of her.
“Anytime one of our players gets accolades, we’re proud as coaches, and it inspires us to work harder to help the team.”
The soft-spoken Aliyah Pana was thrilled with the prestigious award.
“I wouldn’t have been able to win it without my teammates,” she said. “It also shows that all the hard work is paying off for our team.”
This past season was Hilo High’s first state tournament appearance since 1996. And with a young squad — no senior starters — the Vikings may be a strong state title contender next year.
Other Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year honorees include Dawnyelle Awa (Konawaena, 2011-12), Maiki Viela (Lahainaluna 2010-11, 2009-10), Kanisha Bello (Waiakea, 2008-09), Jamie Smith (Iolani, 2007-08) and Shawna-Lei Kuehu (Punahou, 2006-07).
In winning the Hawaii award, Pana and all of the other state winners from around the country are eligible for the Gatorade National Player of the Year honor. It will be announced in the near future.