Hoops Coach Smith Predicts Great Season For Mustangs

History has a way of repeating itself, which is a comforting thought for Kalaheo boys basketball head coach Alika Smith.

The Mustangs enter the 2013-14 season as a two-time defending state champion, after winning the DII title in 2012 and the DI crown last February with their riveting overtime victory over Maryknoll.

While Kalaheo is in regroup mode at present with a youthful roster, Smith’s current team reminds him a lot of his 2010-11 Mustangs, which laid the groundwork for its state title teams.

“That group (state title teams from ’12 and ’13) started off with us as sophomores,” he said.

“Last year, we kind of just had to roll out the ball because they’d been in our system for a couple years. But this is what I really enjoy – teaching. Teaching the younger kids how the game should be played and the tradition that we have here. This group has that ‘sponge mentality.’ They want to soak everything in and learn.”

The team will have a busy preseason. Last weekend, it was to play three games in the Castle Pre-Season Invitational. This weekend, it plays in the Campbell Tournament with games against Molokai, Christian Academy and the hosting Sabers. The annual Pete Smith Tournament follows Dec.12-14.

Although the bulk of last year’s team completed its eligibility, the Mustangs are not without “star power,” thanks to the return of junior Kupaa Harrison. The son of former Kailua and Radford coach Tim Harrison, Kupaa enters 2013-14 as one of the state’s most capable players.

“He’s one of the top two players in the state, if not the best,” said Smith. “He did so much for us last year, and from then to now, he’s really improved. He spent a lot of time in the weight room last summer, and he’s grown to 6-foot-4 now. It’s all a tribute to how hard he’s worked to better himself as a player and teammate.

“He’ll play all five spots for us this year. He can play against the bigs (post players) if we need him to. We were handcuffed last year with no bigs, but still did pretty good.”

Smith also is looking for a breakout year from Alec Macleod, who is slated to play in the post.

“He’s come a long way,” Smith said. “He’s improved. He got into the weight room, and he’s bought into our system. He didn’t get that much time last year, but he bettered himself in practice by going against those guys (upperclassmen) each and every day.”

Smith is also high on his nephew, sophomore Kekai Smith, who is projected to be the starting point guard. “He played with the junior varsity team last year and was brought up (to varsity) at the end of the season.

“He could have played varsity last year, but he felt that he needed to work on some things, so he stayed with the JV. He’s come a long way.”

The Kalaheo Mustangs’ OIA opener is set for Jan. 2 at Moanalua High, and the season’s home opener will be Jan. 4 versus the Roosevelt Rough Riders.

Other home dates will be against the Kailua Surfriders Jan. 10, Farrington Governors Jan. 17, Castle Knights Jan. 28 and Kaimuki Bulldogs Feb. 1.