Since taking over the Coolidge boys’ basketball program seven years ago, Vaughn Jones has taken his team across the country to prove itself against national competition during holiday season tournaments, to places that include California, Florida and Alaska. But Jones and the Colts have never been invited to play in the prestigious Iolani Prep Classic in Honolulu before this week — a tournament that will provide a strong litmus test for the DCIAA representative.
Coolidge (5-0), which departed Monday morning for Hawaii, will play its first game on Wednesday against local powerhouse Kapolei (Hawaii). Among the schools in the Colts’ bracket are Oak Hill (Va.), Findlay (Tex.) and Montrose Christian (6-0), among other national powers.
“There’s going to be some heavy, heavy hitters out there,” Jones said. “I think folks think we’re one of the top teams on the East Coast, and we’re going to go out there and try to prove it. . . . It’s a testament to where my program is right now.”
Coolidge enters the road trip having won three straight games against quality opponents earlier this month — including a 78-74 win over Friendship Collegiate on Dec. 6, followed by a 69-59 win over Dunbar (Baltimore) last weekend. The Colts’ 6-8 center David Kadiri has emerged as one of the top post players in the city early this season averaging a team-high 14.6 points per game, and has posted 10 and 12 rebounds in the last two wins over the aforementioned Dunbar and Cesar Chavez. Guard Kory Cooley is also averaging 14.6 points per game, and Jones said that having four-year starter Omar Roberts running the point will make the difference for his team against high-caliber talent in Hawaii. Roberts is averaging 12 assists a game, to complement 9.2 points.
“Offensively, we’re ahead of where I thought we’d be,” said Jones, adding that his team will not be viewing the trip to Honolulu as a vacation. “When we go on tournaments, we’re there to win. The fun comes when you win.”
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