Luna boys basketball team looks to continue standard of excellence
LAHAINA – Like so many Lahainaluna High School coaches, Jason Justus is a mentor who sees the importance of character development in his student-athletes. Make no mistake: the fourth-year boys hoops headman strives to win, but the overall goal is the nurturing of impressionable teenage boys into respectful and intelligent young men through the game of basketball.
Long in the shadow of the highly successful Lady Luna basketball program guided by Todd Rickard, the boys team has emerged through Coach Jason’s three-year tenure as a force in its own right with three Maui Interscholastic League titles along with a fifth (2015) and a third place (2017) finish at the state
The Luna boys have compiled a 35-1 MIL record over those three seasons.
Coach Justus, assisted this season by Fred Baisa, Kalei Houpu, Rachel Kane, Joan Kahaialii and junior varsity coach Alec Austin, credits the Lady Luna program for setting a standard of excellence of dedication, commitment and perseverance that the boys program has emulated in rising to the top of the MIL.
Now, the Luna boys have set their own course and look to solidify their own gold standard in the 2017-18 campaign.
The Lunas return a solid senior core to lead the way. Captains Iverson Turno and Aukai Kama join fellow four-year players CJ Palma, Carter Stockham, Siale Hafoka and Koa Evalu Robinson to give the team championship-caliber leadership.
They will be joined by third-year returning starter and captain Reece Pascua, senior Isaiah Tanner, junior Hunter Higdin, sophomores Malino Jacinto and Kuikawa Ross, and freshman Tre Rickard.
According to Coach Justus, the current Luna team is an experienced bunch that ” knows how to win. They are athletic and know how to push the ball up the court. But we need to learn how to deal with adversity, and we need to learn to better handle success. We need to realize the necessity to go out and play your hardest for every minute of every game. We cannot take a play off.”
“Hopefully, we are building a program of respect and discipline. This is our goal – to build a program that sets these student-athletes up to focus on the right track. There are now six of our former players playing college basketball. I am proud of where we started and where we are now. It is extremely satisfying to see these boys come back and to see how they are progressing in their lives.”
Thanks to Dan Williams and the Westside Hoops organization, most of the Luna team spent six weeks in Reno, Nevada over the summer attending clinics and playing in some 50 games. These concentrated practices are priceless, according to Coach Justus, with no distractions and focused goals. “We’re in pretty good physical shape and now we need to build on our mental toughness,” added Justus.
On the court, the Lunas will play various defenses to keep their opponents off balance and use motion offenses to score. With their size and athleticism, along with the experience of the last three seasons, it should come down to the ability to focus throughout their games to determine the level of success they will attain.
“We send a big mahalo out to the Maui Family YMCA – my employer – for supporting me and allowing me the time to follow this coaching pathway. Thanks also to Dan and JoAnn Williams and the Westside Hoops family, as they are a big part of the success here, and to the County of Maui for their support with the use of the Lahaina Civic Center,” Coach Justus concluded.