‘It only takes one school’: Waiakea graduate Keegan Scanlan finds his opportunity in Maine

  • Keegan Scanlan, a 2020 Waiakea High graduate, was set to play ball at Shoreline Community College in Washington. Then the pandemic hit, the team canceled its season, and Keegan returned home after a month as half the team transferred. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald/File Photo)

As an eighth grader, Keegan Scanlan had a front-row seat to the greatest BIIF basketball championship comeback victory, for either boys or girls, in the league’s history in 2016.

In a game known as the Magical Rabbit out of the Hat Part 2, No. 3 seed St. Joseph overcame an 18-point deficit and stunned athletic No. 1 seed Honokaa 51-50 for the Cardinals’ first BIIF championship since 2010.

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It completed the father-son coaching championship circle. In 2010, Harry Scanlan-Leite coached the Cardinals to the BIIF crown. He died in 2011. Then in 2016, his son Michael Scanlan coached St. Joe to the BIIF title.

That’s not all. Young Keegan, who sat on the bench all season, saw the Cardinals lose two starters (Kaena Naho’opi’i and Allan Wu) to knee injuries in the first quarter and not return.

Young Keegan was cheering at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium as the Cardinals ripped off a 17-0 run, capped by Titus Liu’s 3-pointer that sliced the Dragons’ lead to 48-46 with 1:26 left.

The Cardinal faithful, proud and very loud that night, roared when Ruka Suda, a sophomore from Japan, drilled a 3-ball for a 49-48 lead with 58 seconds remaining.

In Part 1 of the Magical Rabbit out of a Hat, a night earlier, Manato Fukuda, a junior from Japan, sank a game-winning layup at the buzzer to lift the Cardinals over much taller No. 2 seed Hawaii Prep 42-41 in the BIIF semifinals.

After that game, Michael Scanlan broke down as a lot of supporters from his dad’s days came onto the court to congratulate him.

He also recalled the great St. Joe senior class of Sebi Ohara-Saft, Thomas Fairman, Isaac Pacheco, Cody Andrade, and Christian Kaui that graduated in 2012. (They were the core to the 2010 BIIF title.)

That year in 2012 was the rise of HPA, which won its first BIIF championship, and the return to prominence of Kohala, which finished as the league runner-up.

Then St. Joe went winless the next two seasons. In 2015, the Cardinals finished 4-7 and lost to the Dragons in a play-in game for the BIIF Division II four-team tournament.

Of course, young Keegan knows his Cardinal history by heart. One year after St. Joseph won the BIIF championship, he was a freshman on the team in 2017 and as a sophomore in 2018, when he spent half the season injured.

The most important thing that he learned from watching the Cardinals overcome an 18-point second-half deficit and all the roadblocks thrown their way is the best lesson of sports and life: Never give up.

“My dad would always say basketball is basketball and you can use some of the lessons toward life,” Keegan said. “Never give up. You can’t give up in the middle of a game. It’s the same thing with work. If you’re working on something, you can’t give up. Basketball teaches you lessons in life.”

It would hit home when he graduated from Waiakea in 2020 after he was named to the All-BIIF first team at guard.

He was set to play ball at Shoreline Community College in Washington. Then the pandemic hit, the team canceled its season, and Keegan returned home after a month as half the team transferred.

“I text messaged and emailed over 200 something schools,” he said. “After not having a season, I didn’t think I had a chance. But it only takes one school to message you back and anything is possible.”

One did. It was the University of Maine at Augusta, a Division II school that offered Keegan a merit scholarship. He was on the mainland and visited the school with an enrollment of 6,000 students.

The 6-foot guard impressed the Spartans, who start again Aug. 31, and new coach Jason Coleman, hired in 2020, with his 3-point shooting and ball-handling.

Keegan’s long-distance range was built by thousands of reps and his ball-handling skills were formed from the lessons of his dad, passed down by his grandfather, Harry Scanlan-Leite, who coached the St. Joe boys from 2004 to ’11 and the girls in 2003-04 and was a stickler for fundamentally sound details.

The Moose went 4-21 during the 2019-20 season and have Eric Crawford on the roster. He’s a 6-4 guard, the son of former NBA player Jamal Crawford, and will be a senior in 2021-22.

“When I went there to visit, the coaches said you can grab a lobster for $2.99 a pound. That’s pretty cheap. You can go on the coast and grab a lobster,” said Keegan, who’ll major in exercise science and kinesiology and hopes to become an athletic or personal trainer. “The coaches told me they had a hard time scoring from outside. They have people who can score inside but badly need people who can score from distance.”

Keegan is the typical gym rat hoops kid. He picked up basketball at 4 years old and soon joined Randy “The Helicopter” Apele’s Hoop Dreams club team.

When he joined Waiakea as a junior in 2019, Keegan had an easy fit with his old Hoop Dreams teammate Kiai Apele, and the duo carried the Warriors to the BIIF title.

When Harry Scanlan-Leite died on June 6, 2011, at 54 years old from cancer, Keegan was in the 3rd grade at the time.

But he remembers his grandpa well, basketball memories at St. Joseph.

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“Every single time I was around, he would try to help me,” Keegan said. “I was not close at all to his players’ age in high school, but he would make sure I would learn from his team.”

Then on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, he got the best sports and life lesson wrapped up in one package in a Magical Rabbit out of the Hat night that will live on forever.

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