‘Better People’ Dive Into Hoops Season

Taking a holistic approach to coaching Kailua girls basketball paid huge dividends last season for first-year head coach Mandy Llamedo and her team, as they went on to earn their first Division II state tournament appearance in five years.

The former Saint Francis standout is hoping to build on that momentum in 2013-14. “We never talked all season about competing for a championship,” said Llamedo, also a longtime assistant for the Saints before taking over at Kailua. “Our focus was just on getting them to become better people and better students. But all of the things that we talked about, and them doing all of the things that we had asked of them, helped get us there.”

Kailua, which finished 10-8 overall last season, was also the OIA Division II runner-up to neighboring Kalaheo. The Surfriders then went on to rebound from a first-round loss to Kohala at the state tournament to post wins over Hawaii Baptist Academy and University High in the consolation round for a fifth-place finish.

There are high hopes again now. “I’m really excited for this season,” Llamedo said. “We’ve had our biggest turnout ever for conditioning. We usually are lucky to get 10 girls, but we’ve been averaging 20 (a day) this year. It’s been an awesome environment – positive and lively. The girls are excited to be there every day and to learn. I’m excited to see the program growing.”

Strong senior leadership has helped cause, too. “Our leaders are not stat leaders, but they do all of the things that matter for a team,” Llamedo said. “They are the ones pushing for workouts.”

Like their OIA counterparts, Kailua officially opens camp next Monday, and the first preseason game is Nov. 14 at home versus Waipahu. Kailua will then prepare for the Nov. 21-23 Saint Francis Tournament.

In addition to a strong senior class, Llamedo likes the look of her roster from top to bottom. “They’re fun kids to work with,” she said. “From day one, we’ve asked that they be good people, first. We can live with missed shots and those things (on the basketball court). We did not have as positive an environment when I took over as now. I’m seeing the returnees setting the tone. Kailua is a fun place to be.”