Led by Aukai Wong, presenting the HTH’s top 10 boys BIIF basketball players since 2000

  • Aukai Wong was remembered as a “one-man wrecking crew” at Hilo High as a senior in 2005. He played at UH-Hilo – and later was a Vuls assistant – and garnered a tryout with the Toronto Raptors’ D-League team. Wong’s resume is goodenough for the Tribune-Herald to selecthim as the top BIIF boys basketball players since 2000.

There’s nothing more fun than debating sports, like who’s the greatest quarterback of all time?

After all, that’s how Stephen A. Smith made his fame and fortune by shouting the loudest on ESPN.

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If ESPN wanted to skyrocket its ratings through the roof, the company should give co-host Max Kellerman a remote control mute button.

Anyway, how about a Top 10 list for BIIF boys basketball? Would you like to play the role of general manager and compile a list?

To make it a bit more interesting, how about a list only of players since 2000?

That eliminates a pair of obvious candidates in Hilo High products Reed Sunahara and Bruce Ferreira, who graduated in 1987.

So what are the criteria? That’s a debate in itself. Greatest, most talented, most accomplished, toughest, most skilled, the categories could be endless.

It’s a tough enough task just compiling a list of candidates because the BIIF has never kept a library of any sorts and the Tribune-Herald has a limited one.

So sorry, there’s no honorable mention. Please address any complaints to my boss, Matt Gerhart.

The No. 1 spot for the boys list went to Aukai Wong, a 2005 Hilo High graduate, who played for UH-Hilo.

Unfortunately, for Aukai, he was often the Mike Trout of his time. The best player who was overlooked and never won the World Series because of his supporting cast.

“He was a one-man wrecking crew,” Ferreira said. “If he had an All-BIIF player next to him, he would have gotten to states. He carried everything on his shoulders.

“I used to listen to the radio, and I didn’t know he had teammates. He would rebound the ball, run the floor and score. He improved a lot, especially with his passing.”

Wong’s senior season is a good example. Konawaen’a T.J. Akina was the league’s player of the year, and the Wildcats won the BIIF title.

The Vikings finished fourth and no other teammate joined Wong on the first team. It was the only time he was on the first team; Wong previously played at Keaau.

Wong didn’t make much of a dent when he played for UHH in 2010 and 2011; he wasn’t on any All-PacWest teams.

But after he left college, he sharpened his game in the Hawaii College Summer League on Oahu and one year averaged 35 points per game.

That eventually led to a tryout with the Toronto Raptors’ D-League team. The 6-foot-3 guard wasn’t picked in the D-League’s draft.

But at least he finally earned a bit of recognition as the BIIF’s best player since 2000.

No. 2 was an easy call, and it went to Jovan Crnic, a 2013 Hawaii Prep graduate.

The 6-4 point guard from Serbia was the Division II player of the year as a senior and led HPA to its first BIIF championship in 2012 and a repeat the following year.

Ka Makani also had consecutive third-place finishes at the HHSAA tournament, setting the foundation for the school’s dominance. (Five BIIF titles in the last nine years.)

“At the end of his senior year, he started to reach his potential,” HPA coach Fred Wawner said. “He could post up and we’d throw him some lobs. He was better than everybody else during his time.”

He later played college ball at Abilene Christian University in Texas and pro ball in Europe.

3.) and 4.) Jason Mandaquit and the late Kimo Keiter-Charles, 2000 Hilo teammates who will be linked forever.

They led the Vikings to the league’s last Division I state championship in 2000, continuing a perennial question.

Will the BIIF ever win another one? That’s another debate that could last forever.

Both went on to play college ball but left their marks as state champions. Both made the all-state team with, Mandaquit as the player of the year.

5.) Calvin Mattos, a 2017 Waiakea graduate, led the Warriors to consecutive league titles in his junior and senior seasons.

He is also the first three-time Division I player of the year and twice led Waiakea over Konawaena for the BIIF title.

6.) Brandon Bautista, a 2009 Kohala graduate, was the league’s best little giant since Ferreira, a 5-6 dribbling wizard who was two inches taller than the dynamic Cowboy.

Bautista was a three-time Division II player of the year and led Kohala to three straight league titles and a runner-up finish in the state tournament.

7.) Kyle Teves, a 2004 Kealakehe graduate, was a two-sport threat in basketball and volleyball.

He was the player of the year in basketball as a senior and led the Waveriders to their first BIIF title.

Earlier in the year, he was named the player of the year for volleyball and sparked Kealakehe to its third BIIF championship.

8.) Nick Fisher, a 2013 Pahoa graduate, helped lead the Daggers to their first state title in 2010 and was the player of the year as a senior.

He also landed on the first team for volleyball as a senior.

9.) Randan Berinobis, a 2011 Hilo graduate, was well-known for his hard work and determination.

He was the BIIF player of the year as a senior, even though Kamehameha won the league title.

At 6-3, he played tough at UHH and set a school record with 24 rebounds in a game as a junior.

10.) Kalan Camero, a 2014 Hawaii Prep guard, was part of the program’s foundation. He was on the team that won the school’s first BIIF title in 2012 and repeated the next season.

His senior year, HPA was expected to repeat but Kohala won the BIIF title that year. Ka Makani won the state title but Camero suffered a concussion during the BIIF semifinals.

Camero played four years at Menlo College and under UH-Hilo coach Kaniela Aiona, sparking a new trivial game: 3 degrees of Aiona.

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How many BIIF players are connected through Aiona and Camero?

Editor’s note: A girls basketball best of the BIIF since 2000 will run in an upcoming edition.

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