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Aiea Basketball Standout Returns To The Volleyball Court

Mich’lae Higa’s work ethic has helped her blossom into one of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Western Conference’s top basketball players. This summer, the Aiea High senior-to-be is counting on that same commitment to make an impact on the volleyball court for Na Ali’i after returning to the sport following a year off.

“Last year, I’d decided to focus just on basketball for my junior year, but I told them I planned to come back for my senior year,” Higa said. “I missed it, so I’m going to make up for it by playing my senior year.”

Aiea currently is going through its summer work-outs, with the official start of fall camp only a month away for the Hawaii prep volleyball season.

“I’ve been going to most of the practices, and that’s been helping me to get back to where I was before,” said Higa. “I was a little rusty at first.”

Higa’s presence hasn’t gone unnoticed by Aiea first-year head coach Kory Toyozaki, who had coached her as a freshman before moving on to coach at Pearl City for two seasons.

“She’s a super athletic kid,” Toyozaki said. “She’s also humble and happy-go-lucky, and always laughing.”

Higa’s first introduction to sports had come at the age of 5 when her mom signed her up for baseball.

“It was hard,” she said. “I was only in it for a little while. When I was 7 or 8, I started playing basketball. I was in sixth or seventh grade when I started playing volleyball. (Sports) are something I’m good at. It keeps me busy, and hopefully it will get me to college. I’m not sure (right now)†which sport I’d want to go play in college.”

In balancing school and athletics, Higa found a mentor in Aiea High guidance counselor Rodney Cavaco, a former coach himself.

“He’s been helping me with school and sports for a while now,” she said. “He thought I could get somewhere through athletics and has been training me and making sure I do well in school.”

Higa’s decision to concentrate solely on basketball last year paid off with a stellar junior season that included being chosen as a Second Team All-OIA-West selection (along with teammate Pumehana Beltran) at season’s end. She averaged 13.6 points per game on the year for Na Ali’i, which went 6-6 overall. During one stretch, she posted 17 versus Kapolei, a season-high 21 against Campbell and 17 in a win over Waianae.

This summer, in addition to her workouts with the Aiea volleyball team, Higa also is competing with Extreme Hoops, a traveling prep all-star outfit that will head to the Mainland next month to take part in a tournament.

“Before volleyball, I have basketball, so I’m kind of