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Maui County contingent headed to Oahu for clinic with Clippers

Trips for 33 kids paid for by Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association

Donez

Jason Donez is excited.

The Lahainaluna High School assistant girls basketball coach will be part of a special hoops opportunity on Saturday by taking part in a clinic day at the University of Hawaii’s Klum Gym put on by the Los Angeles Clippers.

The best part is that he will be joined by fellow Maui County basketball coaches Maiki Viela, Keleah-Aiko Koloi and Kalei Adolpho, and 33 kids between the ages of 8 and 14 from all three Maui County islands.

A call from Mufi Hannemann, the former Honolulu mayor who is now the head of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, started the process for the free trip to get set.

“We were at a function on Oahu about a month ago and we just talked a little bit about basketball,” Donez said. “Then he called and asked for some help with this particular adventure.”

Adolpho

So, the ball started rolling and now 17 kids from Maui will make the all-expenses-paid trip under the tutelage of Donez and Viela, the former state champion and Parade All-American for the Lunas who played at Gonzaga and Morehead State in college. Eight players from Lanai will be guided to the event by Koloi, the former Luna and Rainbow Wahine player, and Adolpho, the former Farmer and UH volleyball and basketball standout, will lead the Molokai contingent that includes eight kids.

The clinic is being held as the Clippers conduct training camp on Oahu. They will also play a couple of exhibition games at the Stan Sheriff Center, on Thursday against the Houston Rockets and on Sunday against the Shanghai Sharks.

Heading into her second season as the Molokai High girls basketball coach, Adolpho is looking forward to the opportunity to learn under the NBA’s Clippers.

“It’s fun on most days and I say that just because it’s challenging,” Adolpho said of coaching. “I don’t want to make it seem like it’s all fun and games. I’m having lots of fun, but it’s definitely challenging, I feel like all the playing experience I had doesn’t transfer to being a coach, being able to relate those messages to the players, so it’s challenging.”

Adolpho teaches physical education at Molokai Intermediate School and sees herself coaching longterm. She will take part in the coaching clinic.

Viela

“It’s perfect, it’s just what I need I feel like,” Adolpho said. “I think I need a little more guidance and a little more tips and tricks. And it doesn’t get any better than the NBA, so I think it’s definitely what I need and what I’ve been looking for, one of the things, to be a better coach.”

This sort of opportunity is rare for Molokai student-athletes.

“It’s super awesome,” Adolpho said. “To have the honor to call a parent and say, ‘Hey, does your son or daughter want to attend this Clippers camp, all paid?’ Just hear their reaction and be the recipient of their gratitude. They’re so grateful, they’re so happy, they’re so stoked. … Even though I’m just the messenger, it’s awesome to be able to give that opportunity to people and hear how grateful they are. I’m excited.”

Adolpho and Viela both remembered their playing days with Team Aloha, a girls high school travel team sponsored by Hannemann.

“When Mufi called coach Jason and he asked to bring some of the Lahaina players, it was kind of a no-brainer,” said Viela, who runs the Heads Up Basketball program to teach the game to Maui youths. “Especially being out here on Maui, in the islands, these things don’t come around very often.

“So just to be able to take these, just the exposure, to see these players at a high level and to see them in person, that experience is invaluable.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.