Jayme Carvalho arrived at his beloved alma mater five years ago with vim and vigor and a vow to put his signature touch on Honokaa High boys basketball. In doing just that, the Dragons have hardly ever tried to fool anyone, and this season promises to be more of the same
Carvalho was hard at work on the sidelines Saturday at the Cardinal Classic as energetic as ever overseeing a new chapter for the program, stressing ball movement, buy-in, energy and effort.
“Everybody knows we’re going to press you, here we come,” the animated Carvalho said in between games. ‘It’s no secret, were going to play as much games as we can, we’re going to play as many people as we can. I just want to give a fair evaluation for my big roster.”
The only reason the Dragons played two games Saturday in Hilo was because they couldn’t play three.
The former UH-Hilo Vulcan is treating a robust 22-game preseason – it continues Thursday when Honokaa takes on Konawaena at the Hilo High School Holiday Prep Basketball Classic – as an auditioning period for his roster of 16, none of whom have started BIIF games before for the Dragons.
Carvalho sends out a starting five to see how they react together, mixes and matches, then makes wholesale substitutions as he tries to figure out a natural pecking order for his lineup.
“I got young guys, I got old guys, I’m just trying to have them to buy-in right now,” Carvalho said.
“To be honest, when we came back from Oahu (for preseason games), we were averaging 30 turnovers a game,” he said, his voice rising. “Thirty. THIRTY.
“That wasn’t the high, we had a high of 42 turnovers in a game.”
The Dragons won their first three games at the Cardinal Classic – beating St. Joseph, Kamehameha-Hawaii and Hilo – the first time Carvalho could remember that happening during his tenure.
“They’ve bought in, they are starting to move the ball, they’re starting to do things within our offense,” he said. “I’d rather you take a bad shot than you take a bad pass.
“We are making free throws and layups, and that’s all it takes.”
There are nine seniors on the roster looking to make their first true mark and seemingly many interchangeable parts. But if Honokaa is going to click this season and make its fourth consecutive trip to the HHSAA Division II tournament, then big things are likely going to happen with 6-foot sophomore Isaac Jardine.
Carvalho sees Jardine as future player of the year, and not in 2020 or 2021, this season, comparing him favorably to past Honokaa standouts such as Jonathan Charbonneau.
“He’ll play wherever we need him,” Carvalho said. “He does things very easily. He’s my main guy, and then we’re talking about seniors.”
He points out Honokaa is the only Big Island program to advance to play at Stan Sheriff Center at states each of the past three season, with a BIIF D-II crown in 2017 sandwiched between hard-contested runner-up finishes. However, Carvalho is also quick to point out he feels the Dragons could just as easily be trying to extend a threepeat if the ball had bounced – or a call had gone – another way.
As always, his trademark mantra is GID! – Get It Done – but in a way he’s offering a new saying as well: It’s all been done before.
Carvalho has helped start a Dragon Hall of Honor for boys basketball, with the first two inductees being James Alegre and Jack Ladra, who were both star athletes at the school. Ladra was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 1950s and played pro baseball in Japan.
Beyond Honokaa pride, Carvalho’s point?
“For these guys to be good, they have to know who was good before them,” he said.
The senior contributors include Tyler Fojas, 5-10, Keison Falk, 5-8, Kaleb Yamasaki, 5-8, Brandon Ragasa, 5-5, Chasten Nobriga Guerpo, 5-4 and Kalewa O’Neil, 5-10. Junior Kalai Ahuna, 5-9, saw time last season at point guard. and is slated to get prime minutes.
Falk is the younger brother of Kelvin Falk, the 2017 BIIF D-II player of the year, and has improved defensively, Carvalho said, Yamasaki and Ragasa have stepped up as shooters and O’Neil has a knack for scoring.
“We focus on us, make your link in the chain, have your link not break,” Carvalho said. “I don’t need you to be superman tonight.
Senior Austin Gonzalez, 6-2, and sophomore Kaikala Carlos, 5-8, transferred from Laupahoehoe, which doesn’t have a team this season. On the inside, Gonzalez will try to help fill some of the void left by the Kamuela Spencer-Herring, the 2018 co-BIIF player of the year.
“A lot of the seniors have less experience because they were playing behind guys, and they have to step up,” Carvalho said. “These guys have been in our program for four years and they are getting their chance now.
“Who are you going to hide behind now?”
Hilo Holiday Prep Classic
Kapaa vs. Keaau, 5 p.m. at Vikings Gym
St. Joseph vs. Waiakea, 5 p.m. at Hilo Civic
Konawaena vs. Honokaa, 6:30 p.m. at Hilo Civic
Kohala vs. Hilo, 8 p.m. at Vikings Gym
St. Joseph-Waiakea winner vs. Kapaa-Keaau winner, 6:30 p.m. at Vikings Gym
Konawaena-Honokaa winner vs. Kohala-Hilo winner, 8 p.m. at Vikings Gym
St. Joseph-Waiakea loser vs. Kapaa-Keaau loser, 6:30 p.m. at Vikings Gym
Konawaena-Honokaa loser vs. Kohala-Hilo loser, 6 p.m. at Hilo Civic
Championship, 8 p.m. at Hilo Civic
Third place, 5 p.m. at Hilo Civic
Fifth place, 1 p.m. at Vikings Gym
Seventh place, 11:30 a.m. at Vikings Gym
Waiakea vs. Tualatin, Ore., 6:30 p.m. at Vikings Gym
Keaau vs. Hilo, 8 p.m. at Hilo Civic
Konawaena vs. Tualatin, Ore., 8 p.m. at Hilo Civic
Waiakea vs. Keaau, 10 a.m. at Vikings Gym
Hilo vs. Tualatin, Ore., 6:30 p.m. at Hilo Civic