Former Campbell Player Now Sabers Head Basketball Coach
There was no direct line to basketball coaching for Summer Aona, but it didn’t take long for her to make an impact with assistant coaching stops at Kamehameha and Campbell. She hopes to have an even bigger impact now that she has taken on the head coaching position at Campbell.
“I feel humbled by it — and I don’t want to mess it up,” laughed Aona, a ’96 Campbell graduate who was recently announced as the Sabers’ new coach. “It’s a special thing for me because I went to school here.
“My main goal is to help kids receive opportunities to play in college,” she added. “I got that opportunity (at Lassen Community College in California).”
Aona hadn’t given much thought to coaching after she had finished her undergraduate years at University of Hawaii. She was playing in a college summer basketball league on Oahu, run by former Kamehameha and UH standout Nani Cockett. Among her teammates was former Kamehameha and Loyola-Marymount guard Raelen Bajet (formerly known as Raelen Self). That led to an interview with then-longtime Kamehameha head coach Clay Cockett, who brought her on for what became Aona’s four-year stint as a Warrior assistant.
“I was asked to help the following season,” said Aona of her time at Kamehameha. “They needed someone to help with their forwards and centers. Coaching stuck with me, and I enjoyed it.”
Aona spent the last two years as an assistant to Jody Bantolina at Campbell before taking over the head job recently.
Aona lists a handful of coaching influences during her time around the game. “I think Danette Griffiths, my coach at Campbell was one (influence) when I was a player. As a coach, Clay was (a mentor) and this year we also have Tracy Huddy (formerly Tracy Balino) around (the Campbell program). She coached basketball and volleyball for a long time on the Big Island, and she was here at Campbell back when I was a player.”
Aona serves regularly as a substitute teacher at Campbell and maintains close ties to the community, although she currently lives in town. Her long association with the school also has given her insight into Campbell’s program.
“I like watching the transformation (of an individual player),” she said. “Coaching is hard work — it’s a lot more than just telling someone what to do. The fun part for me is watching someone who had no skills become someone with better skills and one who is able to compete at a higher level.”
As the Campbell job became available only recently, Aona didn’t get to coach the Sabers during summer league, but she already has begun conditioning sessions with try-outs just under three weeks away.
“My main concern right now is getting them into really good shape,” she said.