Lahaina’s Maiki Viela to play with elite Team Taurasi
LAHAINA — Meeting up with Maiki Viela off of the basketball court, you find that she is a normal 16-year-old.
But that fun-loving and “little goofy girl,” according to high school coach Todd Rickard, transforms into electric lady land once she steps onto the hard court.
Viela is a rising star who led the Lahainaluna High School girls varsity basketball team to its sixth consecutive Maui Interscholastic League championship, then on to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state championship.
She was honored as the 2009-10 Gatorade Hawaii Girls Basketball Player of the Year, and recently was named to the elite Team Taurasi of the California Storm Basketball Club.
Yet despite the accolades that keep on comin’, Maiki Viela remains true to her Lahaina roots — a humble team player all the way.
“I credit my teammates with the success I am having, because it never would have happened without them,” she said.
“It’s just been an incredible ride so far, and I am so thankful for the girls I’ve played with. I never thought it would happen like this.”
It is indeed heartwarming to see a teenager of Viela’s stature maintain the dignity and character, the home spun humility, that so much represents the cultural togetherness of the Lahaina community.
But upon closer inspection, it all seems to fall into place that a child raised from the respected family roots of Viela, Tihada, Kawaguchi and Neizman trees would blossom into just such a success story.
Maiki puts her parents, Laurie and Chad Viela, and her granddad, “Pops” Lanny Tihada, at the top of her list of the major positive influences in her life.
“Yeah, my parents and Pops are the ones that have been my support all the way. They are always there for me, and I will always be grateful to them for that,” she said.
Mom and dad see young Maiki as a gifted and self-motivated daughter.
“She definitely enjoys the game, and her energy is fueled by her competitive nature. She works hard to get better, and we spend a lot of time talking about the mental aspects, the inner game,” explained Dad Chad.
Mom Laurie added, “Seems like she’s been out there in the driveway shooting a ball since she was two years old. Then she started playing in the youth league at five years old being coached by Chad. She’s always been working on the basics with her dad and her grandpa. But it’s always been a family affair for us, and we feel that the whole community has taken part in bringing Maiki up.”
“She’s a very special player — one that possesses a high basketball IQ,” said Lady Lunas’ coach Rickard, the latest in the line of mentors — along with Jeff Kihune and Michael Bates — that have contributed the guidance that paved the way to the top for Maiki.
“At times, I can just sit back and let her take over a game — she has that kind of leadership skills. She has a tremendous understanding of the game and the overall skills of an outstanding player. Ball handling, shooting, rebounding, court vision — she has it all. And it says it all that she has been selected to play for Team Taurasi.”
The California Storm Basketball Club, founded in 1997, is one of just 20 elite Nike-sponsored club basketball programs in the United States.
Team Taurasi, part of Storm and Nike programs, will compete in several of the nation’s most competitive club basketball events in the country, including the Nike Nationals, Boo Williams Invitational, Nike Summer Showcase and Nike Oasis Invitational.
Team Taurasi was formed on Jan. 1, 2009 to become the first girls’ basketball club to be affiliated with a professional athlete, and the Storm’s most elite travel team.
Diana Taurasi, the team’s sponsor, is a four-time WNBA All-Star, two-time U.S. Olympian, and two-time WNBA World Champion and MVP.
Representatives of the California Storm saw Maiki lead the Lady Lunas to the state title last month, and two weeks ago, George Quintaro, coach of the Storm, contacted her about joining the team.
“I got the call on March 12,” said Viela. “I am so excited about being a part of this. I’ve been working out on my own — running, ball handling, shooting, lifting — to get ready. I’ll be going up to California in April to practice with the team for the Boo Williams Invitational in Hampton, Virginia, April 15-18.”
That tournament will be followed by the Nike Summer Showcase in Chicago in July, the Nike Oasis Invitational and then the Nike Nationals — the most prestigious and exclusive travel team tournament in the nation.
Congratulations, Maiki. Go get ’em!