Hilo senior forward Jalen Carvalho calls himself a natural right-hander. He eats with his right hand, but shoots pretty jump shots with his left hand, and makes the game of basketball — when he gets on a hot streak — vividly entertaining.
When he switches to baseball, his other sport, Carvalho takes the mound as a right-handed pitcher. But when he jumps into the batter’s box, he’s a left-handed hitter.
“I throw with my right arm. My left arm would feel awkward,” he said. “On the court, if I shot right-handed that would feel awkward as well. I can’t eat left-handed because it would feel super weird.
“In the beginning when I was 5 or 6 years old, I shot with two hands. I was getting more comfortable with my left. That’s how it started. Batting left-handed feels natural, too. It’s kind of good in a way, not using the same arm over and over. It’s unusual and weird for me, but it works.”
At the St. Joseph Cardinal Classic, he showed his natural scoring ability with a 47-point performance as Hilo defeated Waiakea 67-64 in the championship. The 6-foot-3 Carvalho hit two buzzer-beaters, including the game-winner at the end of overtime, and sank 21 of 24 free throws.
Another unusual thing about Carvalho is his skill set. In the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, most 6-3 players are relegated to the paint.
Carvalho has had a 3-point shot, and now he’s also developed a pull-up jumper and a post game when challenged by a smaller defender.
Most of his free throw attempts came on drives to the basket, giving him the option to attack from any area on the floor. That versatility will be useful when opponents double-team or throw a box-and-one defense against him.
“I look forward to scoring and it’s also a challenge,” he said. “I want to be one of the best players, and the only way to be one of the best is to beat the best and play my best.”
Austin “Audie” Dante, a 5-11 senior guard, is the only other returning starter. Sophomore EJ Narido will start at point guard, Sione Atuekaho at center, with Isaac Kaleiwahea and Jordan Caoagdan sharing minutes at forward.
“It’s a great group. They listen to the coaches, and I think that’s what got us through the game (against Waiakea). Waiakea’s a great team. We were lucky to get that one,” Hilo coach Chuck Vallero said. “Jalen is a complete player. We’re trying to get our offense to complement him. We need to get the four guys involved and not having them stand around. We’ve got very unselfish players, the kind of guys you want to play with on the floor.”
It helps that Dante and Carvalho are good friends. Each is willing to share the ball, especially on runs to the basket in transition.
“Austin brings his game and he plays really aggressive,” Vallero said. “He and Jalen work well together. They’re a couple of kids who grew up together and look to each other, and feed off each other.
“Austin’s very unselfish, too. He can drive the basket, hit a little pull-up jumper that’s at his disposal. He can handle the ball and get up the floor in transition and really sees the court, as well as Jalen.”
Hilo’s interior doesn’t feature much size. Kaleiwahea is a 5-9 senior, Caoagdan a 5-8 junior and Atuekaho a 6-0 junior.
But determination goes a long way. That’s what Vallero likes about his post players.
“Jordan plays good defense. He hustles up and down the floor,” Vallero said. “I’m amazed how hard Isaac plays. He’s learning post-up moves. We’re working on it every day. He’s come a long way, and he does a really good job at boxing out.
“We need to get a season under Sione’s belt. I see huge potential in him. In every way, he’s kind of raw right now. But he’s a great, nice kid, who’s willing to learn. He’s very coachable.”