Kahuku Basketball Standout Junior Ale Starts For BYUH

Amid the steady stream of advice Okesene Jr.Ale receives from his father, Okesene Sr., during their frequent phone conversations, the son never fails to tell the father “thank you” by the time they’re through talking.

“I tell him all the time,” said Junior Ale, who is in his first year as a member of the Brigham Young-Hawaii men’s basketball team.

As a youth, Ale had developed a love for football and basketball. By the time he reached the eighth grade, his father made a difficult choice for him.

“He pulled me out of football, and I never played again,“Okesene Jr.recalled.“He wanted me to develop in one sport (basketball), and I’m grateful to him. He was the one that kept me in the sport. I missed football.He was thinking of the long term; I was thinking of the short term.”

These days, Ale’s future in basketball, as elsewhere, seems limitless.A former Oahu Interscholastic Association Player of the Year who led Kahuku High School to back-to-back conference titles as well as a runner-up finish to Iolani in the 2005 state tournament, Ale started his first two games for BYUH recently when the Seasiders competed in the Asia-Pacific (Exhibition) Classic. His talents seemed destined to take him back to the state of Utah, where he lived during his formative years. But when Division I Utah State found out his larger goals beyond basketball included going on a two-year Mormon mission, their interest in recruiting him quietly faded away.

Enter Division II BYUH, the school up the street with a winning tradition second to none on the Island.

“I didn’t know I’d love it here as much as I do,” he said of the Laie campus.“I’m eternally grateful to them. I used to go to their games all the time when I was younger. (Current BYUH assistant) Brandyn Akana was playing then. I used to referee PAL league games for little kids there. When I played my first game (at BYUH), there were a lot of little kids screaming for me.”

When BYUH began preparations for its season on Oct. 13, cracking the starting lineup seemed a long shot to Ale.

“I was more excited and focused than nervous,” he said. “I never expected it (to be a starter).We have two great guards already here ahead of me in Danny (Jackson) and Eric (Boyce), so I thought it would be very difficult to get playing time. I just worked my butt off and, after awhile, I began to think,‘maybe I do have a chance.’ It was one of my goals to start here. I wanted to show the community that I could play.

“It’s been really challenging so far,“he added, hours before BYUH took the floor against Cal-State Stanislaus last Thursday for its regular-season opener. “I’ve been going through a few health problems lately. I’m not going to play tonight (in fact).”

Ale, who was expecting to be back in uniform this Saturday when the Seasiders travel to the Big Island to play Fort Lewis (Colorado) in Hilo, credits his high school coach, Nathan James, for helping him adjust to basketball at the next level.

“I thought he prepared me well for this,“Ale said.“The systems are similar, and some of the drills we do are the same. At my first practice here (at BYUH), I thought to myself, ‘this is like what we did in high school.’ I love Coach (BYUH coach Ken) Wagner’s style. He’s a really patient guy to work with.You can talk to him on and off the court, and I really like that.”

Ale was also a standout volleyball player during his time at Kahuku, but basketball remains an all-consuming interest for him. Over the summer, he took a two-week trip to New Zealand, but he was all business the rest of his off-season.

“I trained on my own, running every morning and then playing as much as I could,” he said.“I think I came in well-prepared.If you want something bad enough, you have to work for it and have the desire. I’ve always had the desire.”

Ale expects to begin a two-year mission in the spring and will likely return to the basketball program in time for the 2008-09 season. When not on the floor of Cannon Activities Center,Ale can be found in the media lab at BYUH.An international business major, he would like someday to work in media production.

“I’d like to make my own productions - I like working with video and audio,” he said.“I want to be able to touch people through my talents.”

For the present, he’ll focus on creating his own highlight reels on the basketball court.


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