Kalaheo’s Harrison Follows In Hoops Family Footsteps

Kupaa Harrison saved some of his biggest offensive efforts for his biggest games last season in helping to drive Kalaheo across the finish line in a post-season run that included winning another Oahu Interscholastic Association title, as well as the Hawaiian Airlines Division I State Tournament.

As the lone returnee this summer from what was a senior-dominated Mustang team last winter, the junior-to-be doesn’t mind returning to a scoring role.

“Defense is the priority here – if you want to be on the floor at Kalaheo, you have to play defense,” said Harrison. “Once I got here and started to see how basketball is supposed to be played, I put my scoring aside. I hadn’t played varsity basketball before. By the end of the year, I was getting more used to the speed of the game. I’m trying to learn how it feels to score again.

“Last year, there were four other guys to follow,” he added. “I’m still trying to get used to being the one who sets the tempo, offensively and defensively. It’s new, but I’m enjoying it.”

The Mustangs have enjoyed a remarkable run over the past two seasons under head coach Alika Smith, also having won the DII State Title (and OIA crown) in February 2012 before being promoted in time for last season.

Harrison’s nine points versus Punahou in the state semifinals figured big in Kalaheo sealing a spot in the title game. One night later, he added 10 points in the Mustangs’ win over Maryknoll to seal the deal and preserve an unbeaten season for Kalaheo (at 17-0).

Harrison and the Mustangs currently are playing in Kalaheo’s Summer League. Except for his volleyball commitments this spring, he continued to devote time to developing his game.

“Since a week after the season, I’ve pretty much worked on basketball,” he said. “I’ve been playing in different leagues and with different teams, but mostly with the Kalaheo guys. Our chemistry is pretty good. We had a good JV team last year, and a lot of them are moving up. When we have everyone together, we look pretty good.”

At 6-foot-3, Harrison is a coach’s dream as far as options. He’s taller than most guards playing on the perimeter and also has enough size and agility to defend post players on the block, making him a difficult match-up for opposing teams. If he has his way, he’ll also continue his growth spurt as well.

“I haven’t stopped growing yet, dating back to last year,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll grow another inch or two.”

Harrison’s love of basketball started early. His father, Tim Harrison, enjoyed successful stints as the head coach at Radford and Kailua, and is today an assistant at Kalaheo. Kupaa also is the youngest of six boys.

“When he’s coaching, it is coach-to-player (communication),” Kupaa said. “When we’re away from the floor, it is dad to son. It’s a good relationship.

“I’ve been playing basketball as long as I can remember,” he added. “Every person in my family played basketball. I grew up going to their games, and I tried to learn from them.”