Lady Hurricanes Preparing For Summer Basketball League

Within the local prep sports community, perhaps no program faced more adversity last season than the Kapolei girls varsity basketball team and first year head coach James Aronica.

The Hurricanes spent the first part of the season still reeling from the death of former coach Jesse Baugh, who passed away last November after battling pancreatic cancer. A former standout athlete at Nanakuli during his own playing days, Baugh was a popular fixture at the school and built the Kapolei program from the ground up.

“It was a difficult year for everybody,” said Aronica, who led Kapolei to a 6-5 season last winter. “Whenever you’re in a situation like that, you just take it one step at a time and one day at a time. We knew we had to just keep going for the sake of the kids so they could overcome it.”

For his part, Aronica had been preparing to be a head coach since his student days at BYU-Hawaii, where he was on the men’s soccer team. Aronica was an assistant at Kahuku to then-head coach Wendy Anae during a highly successful run that saw Kahuku finish as the state runner-up in 2003 and 2004. Aronica joined Anae’s staff in 2005 when she stepped up to the college level.

“I’m definitely excited to have this opportunity,” he said. “We have great kids here, a great administration and a great support staff. I hope to carry on Jesse’s legacy. He built this program from the beginning when they were still practicing on outdoor courts. I hope I can live up to his (standards).”

Aronica, who played at Kauai High during his own prep days, is currently a P.E. instructor at Kapolei in addition to coaching the basketball team.

He and wife Veronica also are expecting their first child any day now, adding to an already exciting summer.

Kapolei currently is preparing to play its summer schedule. As in past years, it will compete in the Pearl City Summer League, which includes Mililani, Waianae, Hanalani, Island Pacific Academy, Waipahu and Nanakuli.

Aronica is building around returning starters Kela Whiteurst and Amayha Dycus. Whiteurst is a post player, while Dycus is a point guard.

“What I like best about Kela is that she’s a vocal leader, she’s determined and she has the drive to get better. She’s made a huge improvement since I first started working with her. She’s one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever had. She’ll do whatever it takes to make the team successful.

“I like Amayha’s knowledge of the game and her natural ability to get the ball to where it needs to go,” he added of Dycus. “She’s our most mentally strong player. Like Kela, her attitude is great.”

Aronica sees Kapolei’s off-season months as critical to the program’s development.

“If you look at the top-level programs in the state every year like Punahou, Konawaena and Mililani, they’re playing year-round basketball. Time (to develop in basketball) is precious for us because we have some kids playing three or four sports.

“We’re trying to get off the ground as far as working year round to improve our fundamentals and skills.”

Kapolei opens its summer league schedule June 10 against Mililani.