Luna boys basketball team to emphasize tough defense
LAHAINA – Jason Justus is a man with deep conviction to the human condition. With a degree in Early Child Development from North Dakota State and decades of work with the Maui Family YMCA, Justus indeed has a broad understanding of the teenage psyche. This makes him the ideal candidate to bring an identity to the sometimes faceless Lahainaluna High School boys basketball program as the Lunas’ new coach.
To be sure, the Luna boys have had success in recent years – they were the Maui Interscholastic League’s second seed to the state tournament last year and have always put a competitive team on the floor – but seemed to exist as the undercard to the highly successful girls program under Todd Rickard.
The Lady Lunas are the ten-time defending MIL champions, are a fixture at the state final four over that decade, won the state title in 2010, and are on point to win an untouchable 100 straight league games this season. That record stands tall, but the reputation – the identity – of the Lahainaluna girls is what sets them apart from the rest.
The Lady Lunas under Coach Todd are known as the scrappy, relentless and fearless kingpins of the Valley Isle. They play a pressurized, up-tempo game that demoralizes opponents.
Every team knows what they are up against when they step onto the floor against Lahainaluna, and it is no hoop dream – it is a nightmare.
This is precisely what Justus, along with assistant coach Freddy Baisa and junior varsity mentors Alec Austin and Genevieve Ruvald, want to bring to Luna boys basketball.
A collegiate player on the Iowa State team that won a Big Eight championship and a MIL basketball referee for the last eight years, Coach Justus talked to Rickard earlier this year to learn more about the Lady Lunas program in an effort to find out how he could create a similar name for the boys team.
It didn’t take long for the new coach to have his thoughts confirmed.
“We want our players to be responsible, respectful and hard-nosed. We want them to play as hard as they can, for as long as they can. We want them to understand that this is an opportunity to learn and achieve and to prepare for their future,” he stated.
“There are seven returning seniors on the roster, and most of them have several years of experience with the team,” Justus continued to say. “This senior group brings leadership to the court for us and a lot of game experience.”
Specifically, the coach emphasized this point: defense is most important.
“It is a tough process to learn this transition defense system; that is the number one focus for us. We will play up-tempo, pressure defense and a motion offense that gives some freedom to the kids, while teaching them to play smart with patience.”
The Luna effort will be led by senior co-captains Josh Chapital and Marvin Sidon, as well as classmates Ryan Madera, Cyrus Kama, Peni Taufa, Zac Carlton and Renzo Corpuz.
The junior returnees to the squad are Kala Kaaikala, Kevin Lammer, Gage Johnson, Jeremi Santos and Carver Locke.
“Our thanks goes out to Westside Hoops, led by Dan Williams, that has been so supportive of the team. Dan spearheaded the effort to send the boys to an eight-week basketball camp led by some high level coaches last summer,” Coach Justus concluded.
The Lunas hosted the Lahainaluna Invitational Tournament last week that attracted teams from the Mainland (as far away as Alaska and Mississippi) to compete in the 12-team event.
The MIL regular season tips off this week and will continue through January, followed by the league tournament and the state playoffs in Honolulu.