Camaraderie, Diligence Help Keep Aiea Basketball Team Strong

Taking a holistic approach to coaching has paid off for Aiea boys basketball head coach Justin Miura. With his team in the mix for a Division II state tournament berth late last week, Miura reflected on the progress made on and off the court.

“The things that have helped us the most haven’t just been pertinent to basketball,” he said. “We’re very big on (promoting) morals and ethics, taking care of our work in the classroom, and doing all of the right things and holding people accountable.

“Our camaraderie is very strong with this group. Before we could work on X’s and O’s, we needed the team not to be (about) me, me, me … It had to be us, us, us. With that mindset being enforced, our mantra has become habitual.”

Miura is in his fourth year at Aiea, although this winter marks his first as the varsity head coach. Aiea was to host an OIA White tournament semifinal last Thursday versus either Waipahu or Kaiser. The winner would automatically earn one of the league’s two berths for the upcoming Division II state tournament, in addition to a spot in the title game, which is set for 5:30 p.m. this Thursday at McKinley. Regardless of Aiea’s post-season fate, the team already has positioned itself nicely for the future.

Aiea’s post-season might be as noteworthy for the games it didn’t win as the ones it did. Near misses versus West Division I’s Mililani (76-73), Campbell (59-55 in overtime) and Kapolei (57-53) showed Aiea’s progress. Despite its 0-5 start, the team rebounded nicely to defeat Leilehua, Nanakuli, Waipahu and Waialua and secure the West’s top seed for the OIA White tournament.

Veteran leadership is among Aiea’s strengths to date, according to the coach, led by seniors Bryson Naito (13.8 points per game) and Amara Toure (7.4 ppg), and junior Shaun Aque (10.3 ppg). “Bryson is a guy we’ve leaned on a lot this year,” Miura said. “We build around him. He’s very versatile, and we try and create (favorable) matchups (for him).

“Shaun is only 5-foot-6, and he came to us as a shooter,” he added. “He can still shoot – when he’s on, he’s lights out – but he’s really worked at redefining his game every year. He became a ball-handler last year, and this year he’s stepped it up on defense.”

Toure transferred from New Jersey during the off-season and has proved a fine addition to the lineup. “He’s very athletic. His leaping ability and athleticism allow him to compete in the post. He’s one we try to use to our advantage.”

Efficiency on offense has been key during Na Ali’i’s late season run. Defensively, Miura cited his team’s work on the glass as being critical. “We’ve learned to execute and value each possession for 32 minutes instead of depending on solid runs. A concentrated effort to rebound also has helped us because we’re under-sized.”

Aiea’s last state tournament appearance was in 2008 under Wyatt Tau, who led it to back-to-back OIA DII titles (2007 and 2008) before leaving for his alma mater, Campbell.