New Coaching Staff Invigorates Cougar Basketball

Branden Kawazoe

As an Iolani assistant coach, Branden Kawazoe helped lead the Raiders to a pair of state basketball titles during a highly successful four-year run at the school. His next mission is to enjoy the same kind of success at Kaiser, where he recently became the Cougars’ head boys coach.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” he said. “I’ve been there about two months now (as a counselor), and the faculty, staff and administration have been so kind and supportive to me. I can’t wait to get going.

“We’ve had some optional workouts, and the kids’ attitudes and their work ethic are already there. The boys are a direct reflection of the school.”

Kawazoe’s staff of varsity assistants are Kainoa Scheer, Jamie Weaver and Drew Gregerson, and his own basketball background is extensive. Besides his time under Iolani’s Dean Shimamoto, he was an assistant coach at Pacific University in Oregon 2007-2009. He also played at PU 2002-2006, was a three-year starter and two-time All-Conference pick. A Waiakea High graduate, he was Big Island Interscholastic Federation Player of the Year and a Hawaii High School Athletic Association All-State pick in 2002. He also has a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

“Coming from the public school system and playing college ball, I’ve experienced the game from so many angles in different areas. Iolani is a storied program with Doc and Dean, and I felt like coaching there completed the puzzle. It helped me to become a better coach, teacher and leader. Being able to give back is what makes my staff and me excited. One of our goals is to teach these kids life lessons through basketball – character traits that will carry them through college and into adulthood, like coping with adversity and showing respect to others. We want to use basketball to make them into better people.”

Kaiser principal John Sosa noted that Kawazoe’s addition to the counseling staff will help all students to progress academically.

“Branden is a superb role model for our students,” said Sosa. “We look forward to his professional guidance for our students – both on and off the court.”

Kaiser basketball tryouts start Nov. 18, with the first pre-season game Dec. 4 in Hilo as part of a 16-team tourney hosted by Waiakea High. Kaiser also will play in the Iolani Classic for the first time in mid-December.

It has been an exciting fall on the home front too, as he and wife Alison welcomed their first child two weeks ago.

“It wouldn’t be possible to coach without the support of her (Alison) and my in-laws,” he noted.