Tasini, the Athlete, Student, Celebrates “Dream Come True”

February 2, 2012, 6:03 AM HST · Updated February 5, 7:37 PM
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Baldwin's Pasoni Tasini signed his National Letter of Intent to attend Utah University on Wednesday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

By Rodney S. Yap

For Baldwin High School’s Pasoni Tasini every school day ends with practice. In the fall, there’s football. In the winter, there’s basketball. In the spring, its track and field.

Its practice, after all — and lots of it — that has made Tasini the Maui Interscholastic League’s most celebrated athlete since Kaluka Maiava in 2005. So it should come as no surprise that on the eve of National Letter of Intent (NLI) day, Tasini was at home practicing his signature, knowing that in less than 12 hours he would be officially signing to attend Utah University.

“I made sure to spell my name right,” Tasini laughed. “I was practicing last night, but my signature looked horrible today.”

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Even with his mom, Nola, by his side coaching him, Tasini felt anxious and uneasy. Signing your name on a piece of scratch paper was easy for a guy who played four sports and is the returning MIL Athlete of the Year. Signing your name to the official document that you’ve dreamed about for years, and will provide you an opportunity that few MIL athletes receive, is a little gut-wrenching even for an all-state performer like Tasini.

“I was actually kind of nervous,” Tasini admitted. “I was more nervous than my mom, I know that.”

“I had trouble sleeping last night,” Nola Tasini said.

Normally a pillar of strength, mom stayed solid on the outside as she watched her son sign, while inside she was experiencing early stages of separation anxiety.

“I was so excited and nervous at the same time,”  the prideful mother of six said. “I worry about him leaving home. That’s my biggest concern. I don’t worry about anything else, but he’s never left home . . .  this will be the first time for him.”

Tasini’s commitment to Utah capped a two-year recruiting frenzy that started when former Baldwin head coach Chad Kauhaahaa came to visit the 6-foot, 4-inch, 250-pound defensive end wearing Utah’s red and white school colors. The Utes had just named Kauhaahaa its defensive end coach and Hawaii area recruiter. Ironically, Tasini was the only Hawaii recruit from the Utes’ 28-player signing class of 2012.

Kauhaahaa’s diligent pursuit of Tasini was the difference as far as mom was concern.

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Nola Tasini talks about her son Pasoni. Photo by Ben Juan.

“I am extremely happy with Utah, because when he first told me they had come to talk to him I said, ‘good.’ Then the other schools started talking to him and I told him I will let you think and chose what you want and where you want to go.”

“Then last year after the state (football) tournament Hawaii was interested and I said, ‘oh good,’ cause it’s close to home. But they really wasn’t into him,” Nola said. “But like I said, I would let you chose and I’ll give you my idea. I liked Utah because they were into him from the beginning.”

Utah’s coaching staff made its final pitch last Saturday, at the peak of his four-day recruiting trip to Salt Lake City, and once Tasini heard their six-year plan for him, he said he was sold.

“I realized how much they wanted me. They sat me down and talked me through the whole plan and how everything is going to work out for me. How they are going to hold the scholarship for me and allow me to go on my mission first . . .  that was the turning point for me. The plan is to get my mission over with first and to come back and get started. That’s when I felt like Utah University was the place for me.”

“This is a dream come true for him,” his mother said with a smile. “Ever since he was a little kid he’s set goals ever year. I am very proud of him. We came in early and signed and then I went home to call all the family and let them know what was going on.

“I told Pasoni that I let him go on his mission because I cannot follow him, but when he comes back I am going to go to Utah to be near him.”

Tasini’s informal celebration was held during lunch in Lisa Kakiuchi-Gima’s classroom. The 23-year veteran business teacher, who specializes in entrepreneurship, felt Tasini’s accomplishments deserved recognition above and beyond the hall of fame wall in her classroom bearing Ben Juan posters of past and present student-athletes.

“He exhibits qualities that I admire in a student,” Kakiuchi-Gima said. “If I tell him what he needs to work on he does it willingly and doesn’t complain about it.”

Kakiuchi-Gima re-told a story of a recent registration that required set up and clean up.

“Of all the students, he was the only one to go back and get the tables. No one wants to do that job, but he’s so humble. That’s what I like about him and that’s what I told him today. I’ve read the articles that’s been written about him and he’s honest about saying things like: ‘I have to work hard still’ and ‘There is still plenty of hard work ahead of me.’ You don’t see kids doing that or saying things like that these days. He’s just a warm and loving kid.”

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Tasini signs his name to the official document from Utah University. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

“He’s very humble and respectful,” said Baldwin Account Clerk Jaye Arakaki. “He will not hesitate to help you if he sees you carrying something, he’ll automatically come to you and help. You seldom see kids do that now days. He’ll open the door for you. He always greets you when he sees you, he’s just a really good boy.”

School counselor Marci Nakagawa was one of the many staff members who came by to congratulate Tasini and sign a poster to wish him well next fall.

Three-sport teammate Semisi Malafu said he will miss Tasini next year.

“He’s a great guy. He does all the right things,” Malafu noted. “He’s the first one at practice and the last one to leave. He’s always doing extra and always giving his best effort in practice. He doesn’t dog anyone, he’s just a great guy.”

Baldwin Athletic Director Kahai Shishido said the school is lucky to have an athlete of Tasini’s caliber who is also a model student.

“He’s an amazing talent, but more impressively he’s an amazing person,” Shishido said. “Very humble, very soft-spoken, a great role model, just a well-rounded person. We are very fortunate at Baldwin to have him be a part of our program. He never complains and is such a great teammate, he never gets down on his teammates, always positive and always accepting responsibility for all of his actions. He has unbelievable character and is a genuine, honest person.”

“I am glad it’s done,” Tasini said about the signing. “Now I can concentrate on school. School is my focus right now.”

Tasini said he plans to skip volleyball after basketball and concentrate on track only in the spring. Last year he finished fourth in the state shot put with a throw of 53 feet, 1 3/4 inches.

“Because of volleyball he never got into a rhythm last year,” said Baldwin’s shot put / discus coach Anthony Perry. “He’s very naturally talented and has God-given talents. I think once he starts concentrating on just football, we’re going to really see how good he can be.”

As far as his ability in the ring, throwing the shot put and discus, Perry said Tasini can be a dual state champion.

“He’s got a great understanding of what he needs to do and he works very hard at whatever you tell him to do,” Perry concluded. “Plus he’s ultra competitive and he always performs his best in big meets.”

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