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Sky is the limit

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i High School boys basketball player Ricky Malu Ralston’s athletic ability gives him more options for his future than many other players.

For the past two consecutive seasons, Ralston’s flexibility to play multiple positions on the court was one of the critical reasons Kaua‘i High placed fifth at the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Division II state tournament.

Whether it was playing small forward, shooting guard or point guard given the match up, his flexibility allowed the Red Raiders to cause match-up problems for their opponents.

That versatility allowed him to be a key offensive player in a team loaded with offensive talent. He averaged 11.1 points per contest during his senior season, according to scoringlive.com.

Only teammate Jim Ehia scored more than Ralston, averaging 12.8 points per contest.

Ralston’s abilities are among the critical reasons he was named the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation Player of the Year, as voted on by the sport’s coaches.

Whether Ralston opts to play basketball or football at the collegiate level is his decision. If he puts his mind to it, he can do it, according to his basketball coach Ipo Yoshioka.

“He’s a talented athlete and has the ability to go places,” Yoshioka said. “All that matters is setting his mind to it, and he’ll be fine.”

Between his junior and senior seasons, he began to understand his ability, and that is when Yoshioka noticed his transformation.

The main difference was his approach to the game. He practiced harder and had more intent, which was the most significant difference that allowed the Red Raiders to capture a KIF title.

“I think between his junior and senior season, he changed his mindset,” Yoshioka said. “He was ready to be assisted and coached hard, and that was fun to watch. He would work out so hard during his senior year.”

Ralston, who is looking at his collegiate options in both football and basketball, is still undecided about his college choice.

If Ralston wants to play at that level, it is to up him. He is listed at 6 foot, 3 inches and 160 pounds, and is capable of playing either football at wide receiver or basketball.

Sometimes having multiple options makes it a difficult choice on what sport to pursue.

During his senior season, Ralston’s statistics as a wide out were a double-take, and that is perhaps one of the reasons he has the options to play either sport.

According to Scoringlive.com, Ralston caught only eight passes for 139 yards, but two of those passes were for touchdowns, and he averaged 17.4 per yards per catch.

“I know he was looking at a few options,” Yoshioka said. “I know it’s basically up to him, and he wants to go (play at that level). I say ‘OK, let’s go.’”

Yoshioka named Coach of the Year

Yoshioka has achieved a lot in his storied basketball career as both a player and the Red Raiders coach.

As a basketball player at Hawai‘i Loa (now Hawai‘i Pacific University), a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics-level college, he got to play against the Georgetown Bulldogs, at the time the top-ranked team in NCAA Division I, which featured former New York Knicks’ basketball Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing.

Now in his 17th season at the helm of the Red Raiders, he finished his second year leading a team to become one of the top teams in HHSAA Division II basketball.

The KIF Coach of the Year accolade, as voted on by his peers, was handed to Yoshioka this year.

He admits he can’t recall how many times he has won this honor in his 17 seasons as a head coach in the KIF.

After losing to Kohala in the first round of the HHSAA Division II playoffs this year, the Red Raiders won their final two games, defeating Hanalani 48-46 and Seabury Hall 52-49 to capture fifth place.

The Red Raiders finished with an overall record of 15-3 and KIF record of 11-1. Yoshioka credits his successful seasons to his kids.

“That is what they are going to strive for,” Yoshioka said. “I keep emphasizing those things. In the game of basketball, you aren’t going to be handed anything on a silver platter.”

Of everything Yoshioka attempts to teach his kids, he said he stresses three things in particular during practice: family, school and then sports.

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Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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