Mustangs Gallop Off To Las Vegas ‘Bigfoot’ Basketball Tourney

For the Kalaheo boys basketball team, the road to another state championship in 2012-13 will pass through Las Vegas next week.

“We wanted to keep our camaraderie together, and some of the kids haven’t been there, so it will be good for them to see the place and play against good competition,” head coach Alika Smith said of the four-day Las Vegas Live-Run Bigfoot Hoops Tournament, which will feature teams from multiple states.

The program last took a team to the Mainland when Smith was a senior-to-be himself at the school, although Kalaheo players frequently went to Las Vegas on the Windward-based all-star teams (Hawaii Select) coached by Chico Furtado and Smith’s father Pete. Hopes once again are high for Kalaheo, which won the Division II state championship in February. It will move up to DI this season where it is likely to be mentioned among the favorites, along with last year’s runner-up, Kapolei, which also is loaded with returnees.

For his part, Smith was quick to urge his team not linger long in celebrating past success. “I told them the very next day that (2012-13) starts today,” Smith recalled. “I told them, ‘You’ve achieved everything you wanted to achieve, but now we have to start again (on the new season).’ It’s always hard to repeat, and we’ll be moving up.”

Among the veterans expected to make the trip next week are Derick Morgan, Josh Ko, Shem Sukumaran, Silia Tucker, Anthony Rowan, Kalani Green and newcomer Kurt Vegas.

With a seasoned roster, Smith said the Mustangs are ahead of the game for next season. (Kalaheo also was still undefeated in its own summer league as of press time.)

“We’re more advanced now – I can switch our defense and they’re in it automatically. We’ve also seen a lot of improvement in each individual this summer. We always tell them a team of five is harder to beat than a team of one (dominant player). They’re living that. They’ve been sharing the ball. With our stuff in place, we’ll be ready.

“It’s not whether we win or lose this summer, but how we do it,” he added. “Our level of play and our execution is the key, no matter the score.”

Kalaheo standout Nainoa Frank won’t take part in the tournament. As one of the top volleyball prospects in the state, he is currently in Dallas, Texas, participating in the U.S. Junior Olympic Volleyball Trials.