Youthful Aragon boys' basketball team growing up fast 

click to enlarge Aragon’s Sam Hala’ufia is a key part of a youth movement that has the Dons out to a strong start. - JOSEPH SCHELL/SPECIAL TO THE SF EXAMINER
  • Joseph Schell/Special to The SF Examiner
  • Aragon’s Sam Hala’ufia is a key part of a youth movement that has the Dons out to a strong start.

Youth has led the Aragon boys’ basketball to its best start in three seasons, and first-year coach Sam Manu said this team is still learning how to win.

“So much of basketball is mental, learning how to win,” Manu said. “We haven’t made much noise in a long time. This year has been a building process for us.”

The Dons won their first two league games against South City and Westmoor last week by 15 and 14 points, respectively, but there is still much more growing to be done.

“We had played preseason and we were finding ourselves,” Manu said. “It’s almost like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. It took the whole preseason for us to get there, and I believe it will take us more than that.”

Aragon has been led by guards Alex Manu, a sophomore, and Nick Frankel, a junior.

“[They are] the shooters that keep us going,” Manu said.

A pair of juniors, David Manoa and Sam Hala’ufia, have controlled the paint for Aragon, but Manu said his players still have to get tougher under the basket.

“Learning how to play against guys who are seniors, for us that continues to be a challenge,” Manu said. “Our post [players] are pretty finesse players. We’re still learning to play physical.”

Entering play Wednesday, Aragon has won five straight after beating PAL Bay team Terra Nova on Monday and has won by an average of 12 points per game.

“We’re just kind of maturing as a team. We’re playing our best ball in the past five games,” Manu said. “It’s been real encouraging, just seeing them pick up things. Them understanding their roles and feeling more and more comfortable. That’s been good for us.”

The Dons have already exceeded their win total from a year ago, and that has created a new sense of excitement within the team.

“It’s just really satisfying for them. It’s so encouraging to see them so excited about basketball,” Manu said. “That’s been a blessing for me to see.”

Despite its youth, Aragon is taking steps toward a PAL Ocean title, which has eluded the team for quite some time.

“It’s been a while since they have clinched a league title,” Manu said. “It would be a huge confidence builder.”

The Dons have not had a winning season since, and have not been to the CCS playoffs since the 2008-09 season.

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Zack Farmer

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