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West // West Oahu Sports

New Kapolei Girls Basketball Coach Steers Toward OIA Success

Fresh off a second-place finish in Pearl City Summer League, the Kapolei girls basketball team is looking to continue its upward mobility in the OIA Red conference this winter. Second-year head coach Jim Aronica recently took some time to visit with MidWeek‘s West Oahu Islander and shared his insight into the program.

What is your earliest basketball-related memory? When I was 8 years old, I played on a community basketball team with my twin brother (Mike) and all of my friends. The team name was called the Spurs, and I remember how bad we were, but also how much fun we had.

I also remember my mom cheering loudly for us. You could hear her voice over everyone else’s.

Who has had the biggest impact on your life? There are two. The first is my mother. She was always a great example for us and worked hard every day of her life up until her passing in January of 2011. She supported me in all aspects of my life and was the most selfless person I know.

The second person is my twin brother, who currently is battling two types of cancer. Through his battle, he has remained strong and determined to overcome it. He has showed me that even through the toughest times you can find the good and overcome (the bad). It has made me a stronger person and increased my faith as well.

Who are your mentors in coaching? I have a few that I look to. The first is Wendy Anae. I coached with her at Kahuku, and I was also with her at BYUH for two years. Those years taught me a lot about the game and about life as well. Her intensity and passion have stayed with me the most.

Another mentor is Hiram Akina, who has coached for 30 years in Hawaii at various levels. My twin brother also coached with him at BYUH. His knowledge of the game is unbelievable.

You were faced with many challenges last season, most notably the death of former head coach Jesse Baugh. What steps did you take to help guide your players through such a difficult period? Being a high school basketball coach, you have to wear many different hats – not only coaching basketball but also being a supportive, trustworthy adult whom the players look up to for advice and guidance. This was a difficult time for all the girls. I believe each person handled the loss differently.

As coaches we counseled our players and helped them work through the difficult times. One thing we focused on was playing hard for coach Baugh because that’s what he would want us to do. A lot of the girls have a strong faith in God, and that really helped them work through their grief. I was amazed at how the girls responded to the adversity they faced.

What pleased you the most about your team’s play in Pearl City Summer League? I was very impressed at the amount of improvement we made from the beginning of the summer to the end. The girls really started to learn the game and play it the right way. Our chemistry was good – we played as a team – and we hope that carries over to this season.

As the state now allows informal workouts in the days leading up to preseason, how would you assess your recent workouts? Preseason has definitely helped our players get in shape and also helped them develop some of the basic fundamentals of the game.

After holding out for years, Indiana has gone from one state tournament to four. Illinois moved from a two-class system to a four-class system, amid much criticism. How do you feel about Hawaii crowning two state champions? Do you prefer one state tournament? Competitive balance is a big issue here in Hawaii – in light of the recent forfeitures for some of the smaller football teams against some of the bigger schools. I believe it’s necessary to have two divisions to keep it balanced and fair.

The goal is for our student athletes to succeed, and I believe the current format allows that to happen. Otherwise, the smaller schools would never be afforded the opportunity to be on a big stage.

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