Future Lunas waiting their turn
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
Watching and cheering on the Lahainaluna basketball team were a team of middle school students who are ready to take the floor for the Lunas once they reach high school.
Mike Bates, who coaches several youth basketball teams in Lahaina, has groomed many of the past and present Lunas, and he has more in the wings. All the players on the Lahainaluna team that won last night's Hawaiian Airlines Division I Girls Basketball State Championships at the Blaisdell Arena had played for Bates during their youth.
"That is our No. 1 feeder system," said Lahainaluna coach Todd Rickard. "Without that, you wouldn't see these girls on the court tonight. They need to grow with each other, grow with the system, grow with the coaches. Basically they need to build camaraderie and that's what they do."
Bates, a former Lunas assistant, started working with the youth programs in 1999. Also involved are Rickard and his assistants, and together, they are able to build programs similar to the one at the high school level. Once the players get to Lahainaluna, they're ready to go.
"I have 12 girls that are pretty much dedicated to working hard at the next level," said Bates, whose Westside Girls team of sixth, seventh and eighth graders (menehune division) are currently 8-0.
Bates saw the potential long ago for junior point guard Maiki Viela. He coached her when she was 5, and growing up, "Maiki was totally into basketball."
Bates and his menehune team were in the stands at last night's game and he gave gifts to all of his former players afterward. Rickard said without the youth programs, there would not have been a state title.
"This year we were looking at a state title from the beginning and the girls were working hard over the summer," Bates said. "It's the same with our menehune program. I had some of these girls sitting in the stands last year and now they're sitting on the bench. They're state champs this year. They're an inspiration for our younger kids."