KALAHEO — Kaed Esposo, 10, said Coach Agena makes them dribble the ball a lot, Wednesday at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.
“There’s a lot of dribbling,” Esposo, who plays with the Team Lihue squad said. “But it’s good, and I have fun. Today, we learned about attacking the baseline.”
Dennis Agena of Kalakaua Basketball on Oahu opened the first day of his basketball clinic at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s good to learn from other coaches,” said Janine Esposo, Kaed’s mother who enjoyed watching the antics of Charles Brown III, a third grade student at the Koloa Elementary School, go through a drill, unintimidated by the hulk of Duke Yadao, a high school senior whose waist was the height of the third grader. “It’s also good Kaed, attending his second clinic, gets to work with different players.”
Karen Matsumoto, coordinator of the tournament with the Kauai Youth Basketball Association, said more than 40 kids signed up for the clinic which was open to basketball players in the 5th through 12th grades.
“Charles Brown III is an exception,” Karen said. “His dad, Charles Brown II, plays with the adults and this little boy is so smart when it comes to basketball.”
Bobby Kamakele, coach of the Kaulupono basketball community program, said one of the facets of the clinic is the character-building and how each player is an individual.
“Coach Agena teaches the coach what he teaches the players,” Kamakele, whose granddaughter, a Waimea High School player, was part of the field, said. “He breaks down the group so there are the younger players, and there are the middle school and high school players. As coaches, we get to work with our own group.”
Kamakele said if a player demonstrates superior play, he, or she, is moved up to the older group.
“At the clinic, you don’t belong to a team,” Kamakele said. “It’s about you. If you get better, you move up.”
Keliikoa Baclayon, a senior at Kapaa High School, said he’s been to the clinics for at least four years.
“You learn a good set of fundamental basics,” Baclayon, who anticipates being on the Warrior basketball team, said. “You use these when you play.”
Baclayon said he’s been to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships once as a player, but several years as a spectator.
“It makes a difference coming to the clinics because these the the same things the kids on Oahu are learning,” the guard said. “Our play has gotten better at states.”
Marissa Martinez, a player with the Kauai High School basketball team and one of several high school girls in the clinic, said this was her fourth year attending the clinic.
“This time, Coach Agena taught us how to move our body more when dribbling,” the Red Raider guard said.
Kamakele said having the clinics here makes a difference in play on the courts.
“A lot of clinics focus on defense,” Kamakele said. “Defense is a coach’s thing. Coach Agena focuses on ball handling and fundamentals. If a player can do the drills, play gets better. It’s a lot of repetition, it’s a lot of work.”
He said the level of play since Coach Agena started coming to Kauai has gotten a lot more competitive.
“Our level of play, at the community and high school level, has gotten better,” Kamakele said. “When our teams travel to Outer Islands, we are a lot more competitive.”
Karen Matsumoto said this is at least the seventh year Coach Agena has come to offer the popular clinics to Kauai’s youth.
“We’ve got more who wanted to come, but even if it’s break, students learn,” Karen said. “Some had to go to Honolulu and others had projects to work on.”
Steven Matsumoto of the KYBA said what helps keep the cost down is that Coach Agena pays his own way.
“He digs into his own pocket for airfare and rents his own car,” Steven said. “We arrange the hotel, but everything else, he pays. That allows us to keep the cost to $25 per player for three days, and we offer lunch and drinks.”
Karen said the Kauai Bus makes a special run starting in Kilauea and stopping in Kapaa and Lihue to pick up players for the clinic.
“Coach likes to work with the youth for full days so his clinics are tied in to school breaks because the weekends are so busy for the kids,” Karen said. “He should be back here for his next clinic in April.”