Kailua Gears Up For Tournament

Kailua High School basketball coach Wally Marciel with seniors (from left) Mason Youart, Kekoa Ford and Kirk Ronolo Jr. Nathalie Walker photo nwalker@midweek.com

Wally Marciel has been around basketball virtually all his life, and he’s a Kailua boy through and through. So the chance for him to put the two together is like a little piece of holiday magic.

Marciel, who coached at Kalaheo for more than 20 years with the great Pete Smith and Chico Furtado, and then later took tiny Academy of the Pacific to the state tournament in his two years at the helm there, has come home. This fall he was named head boys basketball coach at Kailua High.

“I’m in my home district,” he says. “It’s a great community and where I coached in the youth leagues. Everybody has been great.”

Marciel hit the ground running when he got the job. He had the idea of putting together a big-time holiday basketball tournament, the likes of which Kailua High had never seen.

“We were trying to do something never done before at Kailua High, which is surprising if you think about it,” says Shawn Christensen, the tournament director for what has become the Surfriders Holiday Classic. The tournament will take place over four days from Wednesday, Dec. 5, through Saturday, Dec. 8.

“It’s really amazing what we pulled together,” Marciel says. “I got the job at the end of September, and I got on the phone and made some calls to see who was still available. Both my sons (Wally Jr. and Kepa) went to Iolani, so I still have great ties with Iolani. They were the first guys I called.”

Two teams from tradition-rich Iolani, the varsity Iolani I and Iolani II teams, will make up a quarter of the eight squads that will take part. Others are Aiea, Waianae, Mililani, Hawaii Baptist, Waipahu, along with the host Surfriders. The games start at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 5 with four games a day, running through the championship game Saturday night.

“This is the first year of the tournament, but we had some success running the AOP Classic the last two years,” Marciel says. “People enjoyed that and (when Marciel moved to Kailua) they were willing to jump on board. Our goal is to grow and expand, and if it works, maybe we can see some Mainland teams here. That’s our goal for the future.”

Coach Marciel’s enthusiasm and vision of a big tournament are contagious. When I caught up with him, he was busy emailing back and forth with Chris Hart at ESPN 1420.

“They’re going to do a few radio broadcasts of our games. We’re very excited,” he says. “This is a big thing for the community, and it makes me feel good that we’re giving back.”

Community service is an important part of building a good team and good citizens, Marciel believes.

“We’re not just basketball players – we’re doing lots of community service as a program,” he says. “We plan to spend a day in Waimanalo (where many of the Kailua High players reside) walking up and down the streets, cleaning up rubbish. Then we’ll be back here (the Kailua campus) cleaning up around here.”

Marciel says he has seen tremendous enthusiasm from his young players at Kailua High. “They are working very hard,” he says. “I’m very proud of them so far.”

You can see Kailua’s newest coach and his hard working players in action by dropping by Kailua High Dec. 5-8 for the historic first Surfriders Holiday Classic. It’s the start of what Coach Marciel hopes becomes a big-time Kailua holiday tradition.