Let the development begin.
The Hawaii Development League, or rebranded College Summer League, actually has been going for about a week now with its women’s half of competition. But Monday night at St. Francis School’s gymnasium, the next generation of the long-running league really got going.
Local hoops veterans Derrick Low and Kyle Pape spearheaded the renovation/revolution, but got help from others behind the scenes. Many of the old veterans that populated the league, for better or worse, have been expunged from the rosters. There’s far more youth among the six teams (Society Contracting, Electricians Hawaii, Lei Lei’s, Ultimate Roofing, Hooters and Island Movers).
The HD League even has a slick website. Some games are being broadcast on KKEA, 1420-AM radio.
Night 1 represented a modest success for the new-look league, with a couple of competitive games. Lei Lei’s, led by Micah Dunhour’s 31 points, topped Society Contracting 67-61 and Ultimate Roofing came back on Electricians Hawaii and won 78-77.
“Feels good. It’s good to see good-level basketball out there,” Low, the co-founder/director, said during the doubleheader. “It’s definitely refreshing to see the small little changes that were made. There’s a lot of defense being played compared to the summer leagues of the past. I think that’s pretty cool. I think this raises the whole intensity of the game. But all in all, it’s fun.”
Low, who’s stepped aside from pro ball — he spent a good decade-plus playing overseas after his days at Washington State — played some spot minutes for Society Contracting on opening night, more content to help shepherd the young ones.
“I think I can help some of these kids on the floor. I don’t need to come out there and score 30, 40, 50 points. I can try to give them pointers, advice, guide them on the court, and I can set them up.”
That was really a driving force for Low’s vision of what the league could be.
“I always wanted to see the young kids get a chance. I wanted to see kids that were trying to play somewhere get a chance in (this) league and in the past it wasn’t too kind to that. You’d see the veterans playing the whole game. So, me personally, I always had a passion, hey man, if we had a chance to change it, we need to start with this. The league is not for, you know, the older guys to go and score 50 points a game and take over the show. We wanted to try to see the younger kids step in. And that’s where the word ‘development’ comes into play.”
As he spoke, he nodded toward the court at St. Francis’ All-State guard, Kameron Ng, playing for Ultimate Roofing, as a perfect example.
That was part of Low’s sell to UH coach Eran Ganot to get UH players back in the fold after interest (theirs and fans’ both) dwindled in the last few years. The league had picked up a (probably deserved) reputation for allowing rough-and-tumble basketball, with the occasional fracas.
“That was the main priority, doing this league, was to get the UH players on board,” Low said. “Because that’s a draw. That’s our only Division I team. Everyone wants to see them, everyone wants to see what’s in store for the upcoming season. So, I made it a point and priority to do things the right way to try to entice them to come back and play. Fortunately, Coach Ganot liked the new direction of the league and he was on board and allowed his players to play.”
Among the UH players to play Monday, Zigmars Raimo led the way with 27 points (and the win) for Ultimate Roofing, while Brandon Thomas added 11 for UR. Big man Mate Colina scored 10 for Lei Lei’s. Justin Hemsley put in 12 for Electricians Hawaii. Zoar Nedd, a Kapolei High forward, is reportedly walking on and scored three points for the Electricians.
On getting the women’s game back involved in a summer league, Low said: “There had to be a league. There was a good league back in the day when Nani Cockett was running it, and for whatever reason it stopped. We just felt like it would be beneficial to have a women’s side. Get these girls used to playing against good competition.”
Fysiotherapie, led on the court by Punahou girls coach and former UH great Shawna Kuehu, leads the women’s standings at 3-0.