Spotlight: Kamalu Kamakawiwo’ole

Kamalu Kamakawiwoʻole, a senior at Kalani this year after transferring from Maryknoll High School, is one of the top 15 female basketball players in the state according to Hawaiiʻs online sports platform, Scoringlive.

I didn’t really like Maryknoll… At times I had a hard time being confident while playing.”

— Kamalu Kamakawiwo'ole

She was a Maryknoll Spartan her first three years of high school. At the end of her junior year in 2018, Kamakawiwoʻole accumulated a total of  210 points with an average of 9.1 points per game. She received the “impact player” award from OC16 five times and played in the state championship game all three years at Maryknoll.

Her basketball career started at age 10.

“At first, I played because it was a great way to stay fit,” Kamakawiwoʻole said. “Then I ended up loving the sport.”

Even though she didn’t work very hard at the start of her basketball career, her parents still saw her potential.

“From the beginning, we saw the raw talent she had in the game,” her parents Tsulan and Kalani Kamakawiwoʻole said. “We are so proud of how far she has come in basketball. To see her play at the level sheʻs at is such a blessing.”

Kamakawiwoʻoleʻs parents play a big, behind-the-scenes role in all of her success, and she likes to “make them proud.”

“My parents are my motivation because they sacrificed so much for me and I feel like its a way of giving back to them by getting somewhere with the sport,” Kamakawiwoʻole said.

Maryknollʻs three Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship titles werenʻt enough to keep Kamalu there.

“I didn’t really like Maryknoll,” she said. “I wanted to play with my friends from middle school. At times I had a hard time being confident while playing because my Maryknoll coach would minimize me from playing, and he would get mad if we missed.”

Kamakawiwoʻole and Kalena Halunajan come together to trap Campbell’s point guard. Photo by Serena Wong 2018.

When word got out that Kamalu decided to play her final high school season as a Falcon, it quickly got Kalaniʻs basketball head coach, Chi Mokʻs attention.

“When I first heard that she was transferring to Kalani, I thought, ‘Wow! Really?’ Basically [I] didn’t believe it until she actually enrolled in school,” Mok exclaimed. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but at the same time I was super excited to even think about Kamalu being at Kalani.”

Kamakawiwoʻole has already made a positive impact on Kalaniʻs team.

“She’s a very skilled and talented athlete, versatile, quick learner, likes to have fun, and sheʻs got a good head on her shoulders,” Mok said of Kamakawiwoʻoleʻs game. “She immediately elevated our team, making our team that much better. It helps us in terms of another opportunity to compete once again for the OIA championship and even make a run at the state championship.”

Kamakawiwoʻole revealed she is happy being a Falcon.

Itʻs a nice feeling to have my coaches support both on and off the court.”

— Kamalu Kamakawiwoʻole

“Here at Kalani I get more freedom to play my game because the coaches have trust in me,” Kamakawiwoʻole said. “Itʻs a nice feeling to have my coaches support both on and off the court.”

Senior Heidi Kishaba has been a member of Kalaniʻs varsity team since she was a freshman. She thinks ever since Kamalu has joined the team, there has been “intense energy.”

“Our team has become more competitive with each other, which in the end is improving each of our abilities,” Kishaba said. “Everyone on the team is working hard to make themselves the best they can be so they can earn playing time.”

Even though basketball is what Kamalu is known for, it isnʻt the only sport she’s good at.

“Iʻm going to play softball or participate in track and field because I think it will be a good way to keep my body in good condition,” Kamakawiwoʻole said.

Kamakawiwoʻole goes up for an easy basket against Campbell in Kalani Girl’s Basketball first pre-season game. The Falcons went over to win the game 83 to 17. Photo by Serena Wong 2018.

With a cumulative grade point average of 3.6, Kamalu has already made a decision of where she is going to share her talent for the next four years.

“Iʻm going to attend college at Utah State and major in business,” Kamakawiwoʻole said. “I am grateful that basketball has given me not only free education but the opportunity to build amazing relationships with people as well.”

Kamalu only wants the best for the team, and she knows they are “capable of anything as long as they put in the work.”

“My goal for this season is to help lead my team to a championship,” Kamakawiwoʻole said.