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Cal Women's Basketball

2024 Guard Lola Donez Talks About Her Commitment to Cal

November 2, 2023

The Bears picked up a commitment this week from Lahainaluna (Lahaina, Hawaii) High School guard Lola Donez, one of three commits from the 2024 class. Donez also played with the Jason Kidd Select team, winning the prestigious Select 40 national title and finishing rated the number two program this year with fellow Cal commits Kamryn Mafua and Gaby Abigort. 

"I would say my recruiting probably started in Junish with them," Donez said of her relationship with the Cal program. "Just with Jason Kidd going there and me playing for him. And then a lot of my teammates as well had offers. So they always had a coach at our game and I just happened to have like a really good summer I guess and they ended up offering me but a couple of my teammates are going there. So I have those connections with them. And then just with the coaches and everything, they're all really great."

Though the Cal and NBA Hall of Fame point guard has obligations that often keep him away from his program’s tourney events, particularly during the NBA season where he coaches the Dallas Mavericks, he makes sure to check in as often as he can.

"He comes to some of our tournaments and then our last one, our going away tournament for the seniors,” Donez said. “We also had a banquet and this year we went to New York and played at Rucker (Park). And he rented out part of a restaurant where we just had lots of food and he had rings made for us for winning the Select 40 championship.

"It's pretty cool to be able to say that I'm going to the same school and just kind of have that connection with him because he's been really influential with us the last few years I've been with Kidd and everything."

"Lola, we put her on everybody's top point guard during the summer to make that run and she just kind of locked up some of the top point guards in the nation," Jason Kidd Select coach and director Armando Pazos. "I mean, girls that are ranked top 20, top 30 just couldn't get around her because of her length and she's extremely quick and extremely fast. She's super athletic. She's an amazing driver to the basket. Great vision. She's working on her three which she started hitting down the stretch, which was huge for us in the championship game. I think she had two or three of them. But the one thing I'll say about all three of these girls, and this is why I love what Jason's helped us build is the culture. These three kids are culture kids. They will be in the gym from morning to night if you let them.

"And then with Lola being from and now moving back to Maui, but leaving there during COVID to come over here, kind of leaving her family behind shows you how big of a role basketball is in her life and she wasn't going to let anything stop that. I think you don't really find that nowadays with a lot of kids. You got a kid who's just tough as nails that doesn't care what people think. All she wants to do is get out there, get better and help her team win. She could score 20 points for us in a game but she's doing what's best for the team. And I think she got overshadowed by some of the people in our program but during the summer, Jason was like, she’s one of my favorite kids to watch because she does everything. So it's just cool to see it's paying off for her.”

After starting her prep career freshman year in Maui at Lahainaluna High School, Donez transferred to Oaks Christian during the pandemic for her sophomore and junior years before returning home to Hawaii this season for her senior year. As a junior at Oaks, Donez averaged 13.7 points, 5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game, earning Marmonte League Player of the Year.

Fortunately, Donez and her family were spared during the devastating Lahaina blaze in August that wiped out a wide swath of her hometown but the horrible loss in the community will be felt for years to come.

"We didn't lose our house but a lot of my friends did," Donez said. "And obviously, the town and everything. And then with my dad's work, he was impacted, but we still have our house, which is lucky and all our friends and family are safe and everything."

Donez will be coming in for Cal’s first season in the ACC and the newest Bear is looking forward to Cal’s new conference foes.

"I'm excited," Donez said. "Obviously, the travel is gonna be a lot, but it's gonna be cool to be able to play all those just those new teams, you know? And I'm excited to just be able to kind of go with my two teams that I've been with the past two years and just be able to travel with them and just have those experiences."

Ultimately, there were a number of factors that made Cal the best fit for Donez.

"I really loved I love the campus and obviously, the education is really, really high and for what I want to study, they have a great program,” Donez said. “And just for basketball, I loved the girls when I visited. They were very welcoming, very kind at the practice I watched. I loved it and all their facilities, everything, the coaches. They just have a lot of resources and it's really cool."

Other stories:

Smith, McIntosh and Suarez Highlight Cal Women's Media Day

2024 Guard Lola Donez Talks About Her Commitment to Cal

5,468 Views | 15 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by SFCALBear72
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Excellent interview! I learned about her defensive capabilities and solid all-around game. GO BEARS!
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Wait, have all 3 of our commits come from the same KIDD AAU team ?
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HoopDreams said:

Wait, have all 3 of our commits come from the same KIDD AAU team ?

Yup more stories coming soon...
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HoopDreams said:

Wait, have all 3 of our commits come from the same KIDD AAU team ?
Now, we've got a pipeline.

I like the part of the story that says the coaches put Lola on the other team's top point guard. And she locks them down. Defense!!!
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Already having that chemistry and previous history of winning BIG tournaments is invaluable. It feels like the Lady Magic pipeline for Cal softball, producing many of our greats the past 10-15 years (Jolene and Danielle Henderson, Cheyenne Cordes, Ziegenhirt, etc)
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Impressive writeup on Donez.

Lola Donez is putting together quite the special senior season for the Lahainaluna girls basketball team.
The 5-foot-11 guard leads all Division I players statewide with nearly 27 points per game this winter, but the numbers only tell part of the story for Donez and the 10th-ranked Lunas.

After a couple of years in California where she earned just about every accolade she could as a standout for Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) Donez returned to the Valley Isle for her final season of prep hoops.
Three days after Donez moved back, her hometown of Lahaina suffered immeasurable damage as a result of the Aug. 8 wildfires, which to-date has claimed the lives of more than 100 people and wiped away hundreds of homes in West Maui.

"We told her that we would understand if she had to leave and go play somewhere else and she said, 'Coach, this is even more reason I have to stay for my community. It's not about basketball anymore, but about being here with my friends and family and trying to help in any way that I can,' and she's done that," Lahainaluna coach Iolani Kaniho said of Donez, who left the state for the mainland due to the COVID pandemic.
Donez picked up honors that ranged from All-Ventura Country to All-State and earned Player of the Year recognition in the league that her school competed in. She eventually was picked up by Jason Kidd Select, an elite-level AAU team, and was the LA Daily News' Breakout Player of the Year in 2023.

"When COVID happened she did what she had to do and went up to California, played a couple of years there and got some accolades with her summer travel and got her (college scholarship) offers and decided that her heart was here and she wanted to come home for her senior year and we were blessed that she made that decision and everything is working out for us right now," Kaniho said.

Donez, who grew up playing in the youth leagues of Maui, gave a verbal commitment to the University of California, Berkeley. She signed her National Letter of Intent with the Golden Bears in November.
"She's probably the best player I've ever seen and I've been around for a while," Kaniho stated.

"She has elite handles, nobody can press her. Teams tried to press us a couple times earlier in the year and she just destroys presses by herself. She's a three-level scorer: She can score at the rim, she has probably the best mid-range game I've ever seen inside of 15 feet she's probably a 90-percent shooter and she's added the 3 ball this year. She'll do whatever is necessary, but for us we need her to score. She's also an elite defender and she's the one we put on the other team's top player," Kaniho added.

Before Donez returned, however, the outlook for the season was bleak to say the least for the Lunas. Kaniho noted that even before the devastation caused by the fires, he was slated to lose 10 of 11 players from last year's roster, including Maui Interscholastic League Player of the Year Tavina Harris, who transferred to Konawaena. Two others transferred to King Kekaulike, another to Kapaa.
"We lost everybody," Kaniho recalled. "We had one returner in Juseana (Rae Delatori) so we didn't think we would even have a season, so after Lola decided to come home, we were like, 'OK, now I guess we gotta find a team.' "
Kaniho explained that when Donez left Maui, several of her then-teammates stopped playing basketball. Upon her return, however, she coaxed them out of 'retirement' and back onto the hardwood.

"She's a heck of a recruiter," Kaniho laughed. "She talked to a couple of players and somehow got eight girls to come and everything seems to be working out right now.

Donez was an easy selection as a team captain, but really her reach extends beyond the Lahainaluna teammates.

"COVID shut down our local (youth) league and it never reopened, so there's no bridge from our newer players and she's pretty much been the bridge that's kind of linking our past to our future. She grew up with us and by coming back she's helping to restart our youth program. The younger kids come to our practice and they all follow her around and she works with them, hugs them, loves all of them, goes to their middle school games, so it's not just the games but everything she's done affects the people around her. She packs the stands, people come to watch her and it's been a great thing, especially with all the things that happened here there's just nothing to cheer for right now, but her and our team doing so well right now hopefully allows people to take their minds off of things like that," Kaniho expressed.

Donez has scored no fewer than 18 points in any of her team's 12 games in MIL play this year. She dropped 30 points on Maui High back on Dec. 15 and tallied 39 points against Baldwin on Jan. 5. Donez drained a half-dozen 3-pointers in the win over the Bears, but she managed to better that mark this past Friday, when she drained seven treys all of them before halftime and set a school record with 43 points in a win over Kekaulike.
"She had 33 (points) in the first half and I kind of knew she was pumped up because it was senior night and it was a packed house and she's always been one of those players that when the lights come on, she shines the brightest," Kaniho said.

Even though she accounted for 43 of her team's 81 points against Na Alii, Donez didn't do it by playing selfishly.
"She could have went for more but we have a couple of seniors that don't score much and so she was just giving them the ball, trying to get them points and the thing about her is, she's a heck of a player there's lots of good players, but not all of those players can make everyone around them better and that's what makes her special, is she makes everyone around her better. She tries her best to get her teammates the ball and she celebrates her teammates' successes more than she celebrates her own," Kaniho said.

As expected, opposing teams have thrown just about every defense imaginable at Donez.
"She's faced box-and-one or triangle-and-two every game this season and she's still scoring 27 (points) a game. Guys are full denying her and they still cannot stop her. Her vision is unreal and because of her, we're getting everyone else open," Kaniho said.

After it dropped its first game of the MIL season 48-38 at Kamehameha-Maui back on Dec. 5 Lahainaluna has won its next 11 and is in the driver's seat for a 19th consecutive MIL championship.
"It's been an interesting season with a lot of ups and downs and a lot of stuff to unpack," Kaniho reflected.
The Lunas typically begin their preseason training in September, but didn't even have all five starters together for a practice until two weeks for their first tournament this winter.

"Several times this season we had girls miss practice because they had to get relocated from the hotel they were staying at. Three girls on the team lost everything: no house, no car, no nothing. So the fact that these girls still come to practice every day with a smile on their face is pretty amazing. When we put out a team, it wasn't about winning but just giving people something to take their minds off things and that's what I'm most proud of and that's what is making this season so special, how these girls responded and the way Lola is leading this group is just amazing," Kaniho said.
Donez and the Lunas can wrap up the MIL title and a first-round bye at the state tournament with a win over Maui Tuesday night.
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Nice writeup! What's the source?
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Whoops, thought the article linked.

I imagine she's a leader for the Hawaii Gatorade POY. Those are some extremely impressive statistics.
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I guess Zahra King is the only one that didn't play for Kidd's team. Nice writeup. Will you be interviewing King?

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Jason Kidd has been a huge supporter of Cal basketball

He made a big donation to the program and he's supported Cal players as a NBA coach (he gave short playing contracts to Jorge and I think other players)

Now with his AAU team he is supporting Cal recruiting

It would be interesting if Madsen has connected with him

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I saw Jason play all thru high school and at Cal. When he was here we had the best point guards in men's and women's basketball in the country.

Lots of press for Lola but has anyone here seen her play?
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Does Lola have a star ranking?
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She is a 5 star Maui All Island. I hope she maintains that lofty success on the mainland.
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Posted on Instagram, Kai Felton flew over to Hawaii to see that game and then took a red-eye flight to Washington for tonight's game. From sunshine to snow in the Palouse. lol.
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