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Friday, June 17, 2011

2010-11 MIL Athlete of the Year: Pasoni Tasini

WAILUKU - Pasoni Tasini has work to do and he knows it.
Having three NCAA Division I football scholarship offers in the bank - from Utah, Hawaii and Nevada-Las Vegas - before his senior season begins in two months is not keeping him from the business at hand.
His junior year at Baldwin High School included four sports, four Maui Interscholastic League Division I titles and three first-team All-Star nods - in football, basketball and track and field, where he won league crowns in the shot put and discus. He took fourth at the state track and field meet with the second-best shot put mark ever by an MIL thrower.
He also played volleyball for the first time, and it was in that sport where his biggest lament came.
"It was my first year (in volleyball), still learning, but good enough for me," Tasini said. "The four sports really helped me get to where I want to go."
Tasini is in line to be the first in his family of six children to attend college. He is taking a summer geometry class at St. Anthony to be ready for Algebra 2 as a senior, a requirement for his scholarship opportunities.
"I am putting grades before everything right now," he said.
Tasini is the 10th Baldwin boy winner in the 21 years of The Maui News' MIL Athlete of the Year award, by far the most of any school.
"To be one of the top guys in the MIL is really an honor," Tasini said after class on Wednesday. "Now I know what I can achieve."
Folks on Maui are talking about Tasini, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound force on the football field, as well.
"The kid has unlimited potential," said Kawika Kahui, a Baldwin graduate who won this award in 2001 and is Tasini's defensive line coach. "If you look at just his physique, he is really big, really quick, really agile and he is not even a senior yet. It is unique to see that kind of talent on Maui. You hear about that on Oahu, from the Kahukus, the Leilehuas, the Saint Louises. It is good to have this kind of talent on Maui.
"Pasoni has only been playing football for three years - and he is obviously good at it - but watch him play volleyball, basketball and all that. Then, you will see what kind of athlete this kid is."
Kahui was on the San Diego Chargers' practice squad for two seasons, played for the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe in 2007 and finished his professional career with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League in 2008.
Kahui compares Tasini to former Bears Kaluka Maiava, currently a member of the Cleveland Browns, and Mana Rosa, entering his sophomore season at Oregon State.
"If you sit and talk with Pasoni, he is real eloquent," Kahui said. "It is kind of refreshing, you can tell he has a good family backing. He understands that classwork is a big part of it all. His future in sports is just like finding a job and learning up front. I am glad that he is on the right path. I'm glad that we can get him through the door, because when we do the sky is the limit. He is a special athlete."
Baldwin volleyball coach Kalei Houpo, the receivers coach for football, also sees a special talent in Tasini.
"The first day he came out (for volleyball) you could tell that he had no volleyball skills yet, but he was athletic enough to figure out the game pretty quickly," Houpo said. "Being a first-team All-Star in all of those sports, it shows just how athletic he is. His size and strength that he has puts him off the charts."
Oregon State, Brigham Young and Washington are also on Tasini's wish list for college football. He plans to take a two-year Mormon mission before he plays college football.
This afternoon he will be at the Maui Football Combine at Lahainaluna, where he hopes to bench press 225 pounds 25 times, jump 29 inches vertically and improve his 4.8-second time in the 40-yard dash to the 4.6 range.
All of that could help make the Bears football team a state title contender.
Tasini may add tight end to his defensive end and linebacker responsibilities. Offensive tackle may be his calling in college, coaches have told him.
"I was talking to Utah about it, playing defensive line, too, or maybe linebacker," Tasini said. "I am ready for some offense this fall. If they throw it to me, I will try my best to catch it."
His mother, Nola Tasini, is his driving force.
"She has been the main part of what I am doing right now, everything is for her," he said. "She has been there since
Day 1, pushed me, making sure I am at school and doing whatever I am supposed to be doing. I want to pay her back."
Tasini has one younger sister, Kisaea.
"I am trying to set an example for her," he said. "My older brothers and sisters have been pushing me, saying I have an opportunity they didn't have. That makes me proud."
* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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