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Coach: Hurricanes Looking Tall And Able For 2013-14 Hoops

With back-to-back OIA Red West titles over the past two seasons, Kapolei officially entered the high-rent district of Oahu boys basketball.

With the program now established, the Hurricanes prefer to look at the 2013-14 season as one for regrouping rather than rebuilding, as all five starters departed from last year’s team. But while familiar faces have departed, size won’t be an issue, according to longtime head coach Gary Ellison.

“I think what excites me the most is that they’re tall,” said Ellison whose teams have gone 26-7 over the past two years in addition to earning a pair of trips to the state tournament. “I don’t think we ever had a team this tall. They’re athletic and quick, although not as fast (as past teams).”

The team also has some bulk to go with its height, most notably senior center Micah Kapoi, who was a standout for the football team in the fall. Packing 295 pounds into a 6-foot-5 inch frame, Kapoi was a reserve last year, but will move into the starting center spot.

“He’s a big body down there,” Ellison said. “He brings toughness, and the boys respect him. He’s a good leader. They listen to what he has to say. On the court, he does all of the little things correctly. He blocks out, he rebounds, and he gets put backs. He’s been with us since his sophomore year, so he knows our system. He can help the other kids on the court.”

While Kapoi will be the anchor in the post, fresh faces will likely make up the backcourt. Among the standouts who completed their eligibility was OIA Red West Player of the Year Curtis Tavares.

“A lot of our kids are new to the program and are still trying to get to know each other,” Ellison said. “A concern right now is getting the kids to understand what we’re trying to do and learn to play together. Preseason will be huge for us – not as far as winning or losing – but so we learn and improve.”

Even with the two solid seasons behind them, Ellison was quick to stress that the current Hurricanes definitely are working off of a clean slate. “It helps, but I think they have to realize they don’t have to try to live up to that. That’s in the past. We need to focus on playing one game at a time. This is a new team and a new season. We’ll figure things out as we go and work as we go.

“I don’t think they realize the talent that we have.”

Defense has been Kapolei’s forte in the Ellison era, and that doesn’t figure to change this year, according to the coach.

“We’ll be a defensive-minded team – we’ll really focus on our defense.”

Kapolei continues its preseason on Thursday through Saturday at the McKinley Tournament. It meets University High at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to open the event. On Friday, Kapolei plays defending Division I state tournament runner-up Maryknoll at 7 p.m., with a match-up against Saint Louis set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Kapolei’s OIA-opener is Jan. 2 at home against Waialua.