Ale does it all
RICHARD WALKER /
RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM Despite being the top priority for
opponents' defenses, Star-Bulletin
player of the year Okesene Ale Jr. of
Kahuku averaged 23.6 points per game
in league contests.
The Kahuku senior's well-rounded game makes him player of the year
SOMEWHERE between the flooded roads and lonely workouts in the gym, Okesene Ale Jr. finds time for some fun.
One of the hardest-working basketball players in the islands was busy getting ready for his prom Friday afternoon, wet weather and gloomy skies not withstanding.
He also had another reason to smile. The 6-foot-1 multi-position senior from Kahuku was selected as the Star-Bulletin's Basketball Player of the Year. The sharpshooter was chosen by a panel of coaches and media, ahead of Iolani senior Kawika Shoji and Punahou junior Miah Ostrowski.
"It feels good. It's great, it's something that I worked for. It feels deserving, but it means more to my family than it does to me," Ale said, crediting assistant coach Wayne Keys. "It means a lot especially those who pushed me, like coach Keys, who prepared me for senior year."
Kahuku came within a whisker of successfully defending its Oahu Interscholastic Association crown. Ale averaged 23.6 points per game, exploding often despite defenses that marked him. His court leadership, however, was even more valuable to a team that lost its starting backcourt to graduation.
Ale scored a high of 34 points in the OIA playoffs before Kahuku fell to Kaimuki, a team that went on to play for the state championship. Ale had scored 33 against Kaimuki in the regular season, but the Bulldogs devised a matchup defense that limited him to 12 points in the league title tilt.
The Red Raiders won their state tournament opener, but fell in the quarterfinals, ending Ale's quest.
"Actually, I'm not disappointed with how things ended. It doesn't really hurt me. I wanted to get there, that was my goal, but I had a great time with my teammates. That was good enough for me," the scholar-athlete said.
What separated Ale from the rest of the Fab 15 was his all-around game. Being a primary ballhandler and scorer was just part of his contribution. Defensively, he was outstanding on the perimeter and on the glass. Ale was also named to the All-Defense team by voters.
At 15 points per game, Shoji wasn't a prolific scorer, but his ability to hit the open mid-range shot -- as well as clutch 3-pointers -- was a huge factor in Iolani's fifth straight state championship run. Already a ballhawking defender, the 6-4 swingman was a shot-blocking force on the low post, but put his long reach to work in the passing lanes.
Iolani's trapping defense thrived with Shoji's ability to poke passes away and start fast breaks. His most overlooked asset, though, was his passing touch from the top. Shoji was a classic point forward in Iolani's offensive scheme.
Ostrowski, at 18 points per game, was more than a scoring machine. Yes, he has scored more than 1,600 points already in his prep career, but his ability to give his team offense with games on the line was unmatched.
His excellent court vision became more apparent this season, and his strength as a rebounder improved. The 5-8 guard didn't get to showcase his skills in the state tournament after Punahou lost a triple-overtime heartbreaker to Saint Louis in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu playoffs. Still, he garnered the third-largest total of votes.
The All-Defense team was led by Iolani senior guard Vinny Nip, who also finished fifth among the Fab 15 in votes. Nip's relentless, end-to-end man coverage had no equal. Joining him on the team are Ale, Shoji, Rykin Enos of Kamehameha and Keone Reyes of Kaimuki.