Chargers Are In Transition With New Coach, Young Players

Coaching changes often bring about the so-called “transition year” as players become acclimated to a new system. In the case of Pearl City’s girls basketball program, those issues were minimal with the hiring of longtime Chargers boys basketball assistant coach Miles Okamura. He also was the school’s head girls coach from 1985 to 1990.

What Okamura doesn’t have at the moment are veterans, although expectations remain high with his taking over from retired coach Mike Morton. Under Morton, Pearl City won its first-ever OIA Red Championship last February, but now finds itself in a major rebuilding mode with the departure of 10 seniors.

“I’m excited, and the girls are excited,” said Okamura. “Mike set the standard pretty high. We’ll be really young age-wise and basketball-wise. We’ll have two freshmen and a sophomore playing (on varsity).

“They’re real coachable,” he added of the 2012-13 Charger team. “They listen, they try hard, and they’re learning the game quick. They’re really good kids.”

Senior guard Lexi Blaylock is the lone returnee and should figure big on both ends of the floor. “She’s our leader right now. She has energy, she’s fast, and she’s personable. She’s also a strong man (onman) defender.”

Elsewhere in the projected lineup, Okamura sees junior Megan Ramos and sophomore Jurey Jao having an impact. Both were key players for the JV team last winter. “Megan should help us down low,” he said of Ramos, a 5-7 post player. “She’s a tough strong kid.

She’s coachable, and she works hard.

“(Jao) is our primary ball-handler and a pretty decent defender.”

Freshmen Ciera Sylva and Johnneen Kapua also will be called on early.

Sylva will be in the guard rotation, while Kapua is 5-8 and will log minutes in the post. “Both are going to give us good minutes. Ciera is one of our better ball-handlers. Johnneen is raw, but she has good basketball instincts.”

Okamura also welcomed four players from the school’s volleyball team. “That has helped with our depth,” he said. “All of the girls worked hard in our conditioning, and they all have good attitudes. They never give up. Defense will be our strong point. Offensively, we’re still learning.”

With the program in a youth movement this year, Pearl City is moving down to Division II for the post-season, although the OIA’s regular-season format still will allow it to play every West team once, whether DI or DII.

When asked about the West race, Okamura responded: “Mililani, Leilehua and Kapolei should also be strong again.”

Pearl City returns to action at 1 p.m. Saturday at Farrington for a preseason game. Its OIA-opener is Dec. 5 at Aiea.