Kahuku’s Tolu Smith is Boys All-State Basketball Player of the Year
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kahuku center Tolu Smith is the 2018 Boys All-State Basketball Player of the Year.
The first time Kelly Grant saw Galen Tolu Smith II really play, it was a revelation.
The 6-foot-10 Kahuku senior was more than a center. He was simply, undeniably watchable, a force on both ends of the floor. The length, the energy that Hawaii really hadn’t seen in a hoopster that tall.
“I knew he was a skilled post player, but I didn’t realize how quick he is for being 6-10,” said Grant, whose Maryknoll squad eventually lost to Kahuku in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. “His first step was really impressive!”
Smith arrived from Mississippi with a lot of question marks that eventually turned into exclamation points. He averaged 20 points per game despite the constant swarm of double and triple teams, finding opening teammates, spinning out of trouble for jump hooks and dunks. His court vision and big motor sparked defending state champion Kahuku, which returned to the final.
When he wasn’t swatting shots into the walls or bleachers, he was deftly altering shots in the paint. That skill was a major asset for Kahuku in that win over Maryknoll, the ILH champion. Smith also put his double-double averages to the test against Punahou, finishing with 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. It wasn’t enough, though, as Punahou took the state title by double-, triple- and even quadruple-teaming the big man.
“I think his passing game is really overlooked,” Punahou coach Darren Matsuda said. “He was an excellent passer in the post and from the perimeter. You had to know who his favorite targets were — (Ethan) Erickson — and try to take away the passing lanes to his targets when you double him.
Coaches and media didn’t forget the prowess of Smith, who signed to continue his academic and basketball career at Western Kentucky. Smith was trained from Day 1 in the nuances and work ethic of life on the post by his father, Galen Smith Sr., and mother, Shanelle — both former college players. That extended to defense, which was clearly recognized by the panel, the hustling shot-blocker was also voted No. 1 on the All-Defensive Team.
Kameron Ng, the dazzling long-range shooter and playmaker with a penchant for crafty work in the paint, was voted No. 2 by coaches and media. Though much of his team’s schedule was in Division II — St. Francis defended its state championship in D-II — he was at his best against the top D-I programs.
Ng, a junior, finished at nearly 28 points per game and 89 percent at the free-throw line. He scored 33 points on seven treys in a close loss to Kamehameha. He poured in 29 points, including 10-for-11 at the foul line, in a close defeat at the hands of Punahou. Against Sequoia (Calif.), Ng pumped in 31 points for a Saints’ win.
Punahou’s scintillating scorer, Zayne Chong, was third in the voting for Fab 15. The 6-foot senior was nimble and quick defensively in Punahou’s suffocating fullcourt press, and his ability to attack the rim balanced out his 3-point accuracy. Chong averaged 15 points per game for the state champion Buffanblu.
Coach of the year honors was extremely close between McKinley’s Duane Omori and Matsuda. Omori earned the honor, guiding McKinley to a 6-4 mark in the OIA East and a state tournament berth despite having one of the smallest lineups in the league.
Matsuda’s squad was outstanding from the first day of preseason, then lost to Maryknoll for the ILH championship. Then came the title run at states, winning four games and routing Kahuku to capture the koa trophy.
Grant, the Maryknoll coach, was third in the balloting. Also receiving votes were Rob Pardini, who led Kalaheo to the OIA title, Everett Frye of Kalani, Gary Ellison of Kapolei, Brandyn Akana of Kahuku, Steve Hathaway of Roosevelt and Ron Durant of St. Francis.