HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - This past weekend, the Damien Monarchs captured their first ever basketball state title in school history.
The Damien hoops program is on the rise, with back-to-back state title game appearances on the hardwood being lead by coach Alvin Stephenson.
Stephenson says that basketball has always been his escape.
“Growing up in Oakland is pretty tough," said Stephenson. "We had a single family home, with me, my mom and my sister.”
Stephenson starred at emery high school as a player and attended a few small Junior colleges before receiving a call that would change his life.
“Coach Sellito he heard about me from all the tournaments," said Stephenson.
Although he knew nothing about HPU he decided after consulting with his mom that either HPU or the military would be his next move.
The Oakland native would go on to star as a member of the Sharks from 1999-2003.
After concluding his playing career, Stpehenson knew two that he wanted to be around basketball and Hawaii was now home.
He took over the Damien basketball program in 2013 from former HPU teammate Kawika Smith after first coming over as assistant.
With Stephenson at the helm he has led the Monarchs to heights never before seen, including the program’s first state title in basketball.
“The thing about Damien is its a lot of toughness," said Stpehenson. "The boys have a lot of grit and a lot to prove.”
Senior Forward Dorien Penebacker believes Stephenson’s coaching impact extends far beyond just the basketball court.
“Whenever I have troubles he someone good to talk to," said Penebacker. “He cares for all of us and he’s someone you can talk too.”
despite the state title win, Stephenson believes there is still much more work to do.
He believes there is still doubters that need to be convinced that the Monarchs can compete with anyone.
“We still wana prove people wrong," said Stephenson. “Here in Kalihi at small Damien ya know we can play with the best of them."
They will get their chance when the Monarchs move up to division I basketball next season.
Kainoa Carlson Hawaii News Now