In terms of their basketball skill sets, Jonah Hurney and Kamuela Spencer-Herring couldn’t be more different.
Hurney played the role of point man for Hawaii Preparatory Academy, not always turning in a box score packed with stats, but functioning as the engine that propelled a balanced Ka Makani team to its first BIIF title since 2013.
Spencer-Herring was Honokaa’s hulking presence in the post, the centerpiece of the Dragons squad at 6-foot-5, leading the team in points, rebounds and blocks.
But while their games differed, the common trait between the two Big Island standouts was a fondness for the daily grind, setting the standard for their programs with a thirst to constantly improve, which in turn allowed them to churn out consistent performances night after night.
The extra time in the gym paid off, as Hurney and Spencer-Herring were named the BIIF Division II co-players of the year in a vote by the league’s coaches, West Hawaii Today and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
“It’s crazy. It’s still sinking in,” Hurney said. “Really, this is for my teammates. I got the award, but we did this as a team. It wasn’t just me. Basketball is a team sport.”
Spencer-Herring could not be reached for comment on the award.
When it came down to pinpointing what made Hurney special for his squad, it came back to the consistency of his steady-handed senior for Hawaii Prep head coach Fred Wawner.
“I think any coach will tell you — especially in high school basketball — that the point guard position is so valuable. And Jonah was very steady for us,” Wawner said. “He really laid down the standard for what HPA basketball is, and the work that goes into it. We knew what we were going to get out of him every day, from the preseason, to playoffs.”
Honokaa head coach Jayme Carvalho had a similar perspective on his senior star.
“Kamu is very consistent on and off the court. We lost a lot of players last year and he knew he had to step up and he did in a big way,” Carvalho said. “The best thing about Kamu is his loyalty and commitment to the community, school and program. Kamu has been so consistent it makes my job as coach much easier knowing what we could expect from him.”
Joining Hurney on the first team were Ka Makani teammates Matija Vitorovic, KJ Walker and Javan Perez. Gene Ansagay was the other member of the BIIF runner-up Dragons on the list, with Parker’s Conner Brown rounding out the selections.
What’s your job?
Hawaii Prep head coach Fred Wawner gave his two seniors very specific jobs.
Ka Makani honorable mention selection Michael Hanano’s duty was to make sure the team was revved up and ready to play each game.
For Hurney, his task was simple — get the W.
“Coach would look at me before every game and ask me my job,” Hurney said. “I’d tell him every time, ‘win the game.’”
It wasn’t an entirely new experience for Hurney. In what he considers his first sport, baseball, wins and losses are what he’s judged by as Ka Makani’s ace on the mound.
With that carrying over to the hardcourt, Hurney — and Hawaii Prep — finished the season with a 12-3 BIIF record and undefeated against Division II opponents — a testament that the senior standout knew what to do with the ball in his hand and was pretty good at accomplishing what his coach tasked him with.
“It’s a similar feeling to baseball. When I’m out there, I know my teammates have my back,” Hurney said of his duties as the team primary ball-handler. “Ever since I was little, my dad always made sure I had a ball in my hand. We would always shoot hoops at home. It’s just about staying focused.”
Baseball will likely be the sport that Hurney follows to the next level, but as Wawner points out, you would have never known that from his attitude and commitment on the court.
“Jonah’s favorite sport is really whatever he’s being coached in at the time. I never really had to worry about his mind drifting,” Wawner said. “That says a lot about his makeup as a person. He’s really, really coachable. I think there is a lot of value in seeing what you team needs, and buying into that process.”
One of the long-term benefits of having a lack of seniors, is that the younger players get big-time experience. Luckily for Hawaii Prep, their roster will return to defend their BIIF D-II title mostly intact, sans Hurney and Hanano.
The pair of seniors contributions, however, won’t soon be forgotten.
“I just wanted to set a good example for the younger guys and be a team leader,” Hurney said. “To win that BIIF title — the first one since I have been at the school — was very special. I’m glad we were able to go out with a bang.”