Beware Of Mighty Red Raiders — In Boys Basketball This Time
As impressed with Kahuku senior Lasselle Thompson as head basketball coach Darren Johnson was a year ago, the senior’s stock has only multiplied in the eyes of his coach since.
“Four (forward position) is a key spot for us, and Lasselle is a kid who has really developed,” said Johnson. “He’s a really good athlete who is coming off of a good football season, and we’re hoping he can do the same in basketball. We expect a lot out of him.”
Thompson, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, will have large shoes to fill this season, as he will be called upon to compensate for the loss of Mikeli Fiso, who completed his eligibility last February.
Hopes are high once again for the Red Raiders after they won the OIA Division I title last season in addition to a runner-up finish at the state tournament. Thompson’s supporting cast is extensive, as the team has what could be the largest roster in the state this winter with 20 varsity players. The starting lineup through four pre-season games has included Will Cravens, Chance Maghanoy, Lamone Williams and returning First Team All-Conference guard Kawe Johnson in addition to Thompson. Huleia Naeole, Ku-j Tapusoa, Quayd Ah You and McKay Lewis also have played a big part in the rotation, while the team also will feature Liko Carvalho, Davailo Galeai, Ashley Kaka, Drayton Aki, Soli Afalava, Clifford Ramseyer, Hirkley Latu and Jarren Ulima.
“Everybody will play a contributing role,” said Johnson, who led Kahuku to an 18-2 record last season. “Some of our toughest games so far have been in practice with the kids battling it out for starting positions. They all play hard. Of our teams, this is probably the hardest-playing bunch.”
Thompson’s play in the post could help balance a Red Raider team that already should have one of the more formidable back courts in the state.
“He’s very active, and he has the same type of athletic ability as Mikeli,” Johnson said. “He’s also very versatile. We can use him at different positions. He’s quick enough on the perimeter to play guard, and he’s strong and tough enough in the paint (to play inside).”
Thompson displayed some of his promise in the preseason opener when he tallied 17 points in a win over Molokai.
Among the Red Raiders’ strengths to date has been their cohesiveness. “(Team chemistry) is good and it’s getting better,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of characters on this team. They have a lot of fun and laugh a lot. They’re all happy-go-lucky guys. They’ve been together since football season, and they understand what it takes to win.”
Kahuku returns to action this week in the Iolani Classic Tournament. Its first round game is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday versus Montrose High. Kahuku’s OIA-opener Jan. 3 at home versus Roosevelt.