Keonilei Akana entered high school with high hopes and big dreams. Even after two brain tumors over her Kamehameha career, the same can still be said about college as the volleyball star made her departure from the North Shore to the University of Nebraska on Sunday.
Akana’s list of accomplishments during her prep career at Kamehameha includes a senior season that saw her win her second HHSAA title, along with becoming the consensus state Player of the Year in 2019.
For a player like Akana that made the game look easy during her time in a Warriors jersey, most of the time it was anything but. Between brain surgeries, radiation treatments and pure fatigue, the journey was often grueling. Through it all, Akana gained perspective and carries wisdom that not many teenagers possess.
“Something that I learned was to never take things for granted in life and to set goals that you have been dreaming of. Just have big dreams,” she said. “Someone that really stood out and helped me with that was my older sister, (Braelyn). She really helped me because she sees the positive in everything. Just being around her and surrounding myself with her and my family, it really helped me recover while I was going through all this twice, it was really hard for me.
“After everything happened and me being able to go back on the court, it was really important for me to surround myself with positive people and always remember that dreaming big is so important.”
Akana spent the summer of 2016 travelling the country with her club volleyball team. Upon her return, she started preparing for Kamehameha’s varsity tryouts and the accompanying mile and a half run with Braelyn, who now plays for the University of Hawaii.
Following their run, Keonilei and Braelyn went inside a gym where their parents were watching a basketball game. As Keonilei and Braelyn talked, something didn’t feel right to Keonilei. She became disoriented and had a hard time deciphering what Braelyn was saying. A few moments later, she blacked out and fell down the stairs.
The impact of the fall caused a seizure, and Keonilei woke up in the hospital the next day. It was there that a tumor on the left side of her brain was discovered.
Keonilei comes from a family of athletes. Her mother, Joselyn, was a star for the UH women’s team in the 1990’s. Her father, Brandyn, was a basketball standout at BYU-Hawaii, also in the 1990’s, before a stint on the Hawaii men’s basketball coaching staff from 2010 to 2014. Also a member of the family is Tausili Akana, a linebacker at Kamehameha who is entering his sophomore season with scholarship offers from Utah, Hawaii and BYU.
Despite Keonilei’s athletic prowess and desire to compete, she says her mother saw it fit that she be a manager for the team her freshman season instead of a player. Joselyn’s apprehension was understandable, but Keonilei still wanted to play. It’s a desire that her coach,…
Read More: Kamehameha’s Keonilei Akana set to begin college volleyball career at Nebraska 2020-06-02 02:11:00