Swishes and sign language: This Kalani basketball player soars on the court

By Kainoa Carlson
HNN Staff

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - This Wednesday, the Hawaii State Basketball tournament will tip off. Among the players competing for the state championship is 15-year-old Brandon Chung.

For as long as he could remember, silence was all he heard.

Chung, the starting forward for the Kalani Falcons, doesn't let his disability stop him from becoming one of the best young players on the team.

Brandon wasn't born deaf. He could hear up until the age of two when a high fever caused hearing loss.

When he was five, his parents made the decision to operate and implanted a device that helps him hear certain sounds.

"Deaf people and other people with disabilities – even though we are, we have a disability – we can still grow, and still continue to find ourselves and continue to work hard," Chung said through an interpreter.

Chung has played basketball ever since he was seven. He grew up and lived on Maui for most of his life. He moved to Oahu to attend the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind his freshman year, and is a part of the athletics program at Kalani High School.

Senior mentor and teammate Akira Karasawa says despite Chung being deaf, communication on and off the court isn't an issue.

When asked how they communicate, Karasawa said, "Really show body motions and hand gestures ... Word and mouth kind of slowly so he understands certain things, keep it short."

Every game his interpreter Danny Gong stands next to Chung's head coach and uses sign language to communicate plays and assignments throughout the game. Danny is a freelance sign language specialist.

"The important thing is to interpret what the coach is saying," said Gong. "When they go over plays, moves, but not only his coach but also what his teammates are telling him."

After winning the OIA DII title last week, Chung and his teammates are a strong front runner heading into this week's state tournament.

They're up against seven other teams in the D II bracket.

Kalani will hit the hardwood this Wednesday at 7:00 pm at Kaimuki high school when they take on the Honoka'a Dragons in the first round playoffs.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.