Mustangs Bring Depth To DI Preseason Basketball Action

When the prep basketball season officially begins pre-season tournaments, Kalaheo can expect to get every opponent’s best effort. That’s part of the deal for the defending Division state champions.

For the present, however, the Mustangs won’t have to leave their own gym to find good competition. With a handful of newcomers and most of the 2011-12 team back, their depth should be on display at every practice.

“The difference between the first and second team will be minimal,” said head coach Alika Smith, whose team finished 29-6 (14-2 versus OIA teams) last season. “There will be a lot of battles for playing time – something we didn’t have much of last year. That’s going to make the team better and deeper.”

The Mustangs, who move up to Division I this winter, already were heavy in experience with the return of Josh Ko, Derick Morgan, Shem Sukumaran, Nainoa Frank, Silia Tucker, Anthony Rowan, Kalani Green and Kurt Vegas, but more good news arrived in the off-season with the transfer of Kalei Zuttermeister (Castle), Kupaa Harrison (Iolani) and Alec MacLoud (Le Jardin).

All three could figure in the lineup immediately. Zuttermeister competed with them last July when the Mustangs won the Live-Run Bigfoot Hoops Tournament in Las Vegas. “He can shoot well, and he can rebound,” Smith said. “He’s going to fit in nicely when we go with a five-guard system. With guys who can shoot at all five spots, it will be fun to watch – as long as we’re making them.”

Harrison, a sophomore, is the son of former Kailua and Radford head coach Tim Harrison. “He has point guard savvyness,” Smith said. “He gets the ball to our shooters and his teammates. You can’t teach that.”

Among the bright spots of summer, according to Smith, was Kalaheo’s ability to play at a high level without the services of center Nainoa Frank, who was competing for the U.S. Junior National Volleyball Team. The Mustangs hope to do the same until mid-December when Frank is medically cleared from a football-related injury that will sideline in him in the early going.

Playing without the athletic and agile Frank in the middle, the Mustangs played more up-tempo, a look that will likely be highlighted in 2011-12.

“Our transition game,” Smith responded, when asked team strength. “We like to get out and push it more. It worked in the summer for us. We also emphasized putting more pressure on teams in the backcourt. Kalei and Shem are both very, very quick.

“We’re very excited,” he added. “The kids worked hard in the off-season, and they know it will be twice as hard this time in Division I.”

Kalaheo’s public unveiling is set for Nov. 24 at Le Jardin Academy. The teams will meet again Nov. 26 at Kalaheo. From there, the Mustangs will move on to the Nov. 3-Dec. 2 Campbell Pre-Season Tournament.