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For UHH men’s basketball coach Aiona, youth minicamp is a start

This doesn’t figure to be as much a blast from the past for Kaniela Aiona, but more so a tiny glimpse, he hopes, of things to come.

UH-Hilo’s men’s basketball coach said next week’s afternoon minicamp will provide “baby steps” as his program starts to reengage with the community. Vulcans women’s coach David Kaneshiro also will be on hand from 3-5 p.m. Monday through July 30 at UH-Hilo gym to work with ages 10-13 (up to ninth grade).

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Aiona said this “will not be a Vulcans Camp, at least not one of the big ones.” As an alumnus, he would know.

Coach Jimmy Yagi started the camps in the mid-1970s, and with him still as the maestro, the former Vulcans-Hawaii Basketball School turned 44 in 2019.

Aiona – a Honokaa High grad who’s coming off a 10-2 record in his first season at the helm of the Vuls – fondly remembered his days as a camper in the early 1990s.

“That was what we looked forward to, Vulcans Camp every summer,” he said. “And for a lot of youth around the entire island, that was sort of the big thing you did in the summer. It was something the players and families planned.”

The camp was canceled last year because of the pandemic, and this year’s offering will be a scaled-down version limited to 20 participants per day, led by the coaching staffs of the men’s and women’s teams.

Aiona said he’s happy to collaborate with Kaneshiro, another Vulcans Camp alum. Bigger and more robust camps are planned in years to come, but Aiona’s always excited to work with youngsters on the basics of shooting, dribbling, passing and defense.

“Dealing with youth, it’s just fun and it brings you back to your days growing up,” he said. “It’s a kid’s game, and as a college coach, you’re fortunate to be able to stay around it as a career. But when you boil it down, our love and compassion for the game comes from the fun that we had with the game itself going back to our youngest memories.”

Along with the potential 45th renewal of the camp next summer, in the future Aiona hopes to get his players involved in youth clinics around the island.

“That part is special, hopefully to inspire the next generation and spread the game, because that is what others did for us,” Aiona said.

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According to a release, campers of all skill and experience levels are welcome next week.

To register, email uhhmbkb@hawaii.edu with the camper name, camper age, and a guardian contact phone number.

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