“It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.”
That’s the ageless adage coined by the late John Wooden and it earmarked his national championship teams at UCLA during the coach’s highly successful tenure in the 1960s and ’70s.
Keaau High School coach Mark Kawaha is a firm believer in the Wooden Way — playing unselfish team basketball and placing all team goals ahead of individual success.
“We want to play as a team — on offense, defense, rebounding the ball, and helping each other in any way we can,” Kawaha said. “We know if we play together and to our strengths, we can be competitive against anyone we play in the BIIF.”
This year, Kawaha, a former Hilo High standout during his prep career, is looking to three seniors to lead the Cougars to a productive Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I season. They are Isiah Segobia, Edgar Ventura and Charlie Belmes.
“We don’t have a lot of experience on this year’s team,” Kawaha said. “But Isiah, Edgar and Charlie all played a lot last year and have the experience to lead our younger players.
“They lead by example in practice and in the games. They’re talkative and help motivate the younger players. They try to get everyone to play as a team.”
And if the Cougars can continue to improve, Kawaha says they can be a surprise team in D-I — hopefully earning one of the four berths in this year’s league playoffs.
“I think everything is up for grabs this year,” Kawaha said. “All the teams are pretty even. We showed improvement during the preseason and started playing good team basketball in the Hilo High tournament. We lost some games, but we were close enough to know if we can keep improving, we should be right there.”
Segobia, a 5-foot-10 guard, and Ventura, a 5-11 forward, were the key players for Keaau during the preseason, leading the team in scoring and rebounding in most games. Belmes, a 5-8 guard with a deadly 3-point shot, didn’t play in the preseason while recovering from an injury, but he’s expected back for BIIF action and should join Segobia and Ventura as the leaders.
Segobia is looking forward to league play.
“My role is to be a good defensive player and attack on offense,” Segobia said. “With the new hand-checking rule, it makes it easier to get to the free-throw line. I want to be aggressive.”
Segobia also likes his role as a team captain along with Ventura.
“We try to push everyone else and limit our mistakes,” Segobia said. “I think we’ve improved a lot in the preseason. We want to have a good season, have fun, and make it all memorable.”
To reach their team goals, both Kawaha and Segobia believe the Cougars must play a disciplined style to limit their turnovers and get high-percentage shots.
“A lot of teams just want to get the ball and run,” Kawaha said. “We want to play smart basketball. We’ll run if we have an advantage, but most of the time we want to come down and get a good shot. We need good ball movement on offense.
“On defense, we’re looking to play good helpside defense and limit our opponents to only one shot. So far during the preseason we’ve rebounded the ball pretty good and we hope to continue doing that in the BIIF season.”
Kawaha also likes this year’s BIIF schedule in which all D-I and II teams will play against each other in an islandwide format.
“We have a lot of home games this season and only have to travel to Kealakehe and HPA,” the Cougars coach said. “Next year, it’ll be a lot tougher, but this year it’s good for us.”
The Keaau coach also said every team will have to live with the new hand-check rule.
“That’s going to be one of the biggest adjustments to make,” he said. “One night, the refs might be calling it tight and the next night, they might call it loose. We’ll just have to adjust, move our feet, keep our hands up, and look for more helpside defense.”
Segobia, Ventura and Belmes are three of seven seniors on the 13-man Keaau roster. The others are Tryztan Padasdao (5-4 guard), Kelly Gani (5-9 forward), Jade Barroga (5-9 center) and Elysonne Quila (5-0 guard), all who played key minutes during the preseason.
Juniors include Charles Caldwell-Kaai (5-9 forward) and Kahaku Lum Ho (5-8 forward); sophomores, Kirk Imai (5-11 guard) and Jesse Bossy (6-0 center); and freshmen, Joe Villa (5-6 guard) and Roynaldo Arcellana (5-6 guard).
It’s a Cougars squad that Kawaha likes — one that works hard and has shown strong improvement heading into league play.
“But everyone knows, if we’re going to reach our goals, we’re going to have to do it as a team, playing together,” he said.