(3 p.m. Adds interview with Sage Tolentino.)
The path will lead to Cincinnati for Sage Tolentino.
The 7-foot forward/center from Kaneohe announced his commitment to the Bearcats on Thursday via social media.
“I am humbled and blessed that I will be committing to the University of Cincinnati! Thank you to coach Wes Miller, coach Chad Dollar and the entire coaching staff for believing in me,” Tolentino wrote. “I am very thankful for this opportunity to play at the next level, and I’m ready for this next chapter in my life! I’m 1000% committed! All glory to God.”
The school, he added, is a great fit.
“I feel really excited about my commitment to Cincinnati. I didn’t feel nervous at all. I was 100 percent ready to commit. And when I committed today, I felt relief that I announced it and that I’m officially a Bearcat. And I’ve just been thankful for the opportunity,” Tolentino said.
In mid-June, Tolentino decommitted from Auburn, which has been embroiled in controversy since self-imposing a postseason ban during an investigation into bribery charges against one of its assistant coaches. That ban came one month after Tolentino had committed to the Tigers.
He was ready for a new opportunity.
“Just from the start, when I went on an unofficial visit to Cincinnati after decommitting, I felt like I was home from the first time I stepped foot on the campus. I felt welcomed and I wanted to be a part of the Cincinnati family. I’ve built a strong relationship with coach Wes Miller, (assistant) coach Chad Dollar and coach Chris. But the entire coaching staff, I love, and they are so supportive. They are just all great coaches and I look forward to be coached by a great staff,” Tolentino said.
He has already studied some of the program’s past and present.
“I love how the program has a lot of history behind it. Oscar Robertson and one of the assistant coaches, DerMarr Johnson played in the NBA. And they just develop a ton of NBA guys. Also, how they will be playing in the Maui Invitational my freshman year. I just fell in love when they told me that, just because I can go back to Hawaii and play in front of my family,” Tolentino said.
The tri-states area has become a second home for Tolentino.
“About the area, I love how it’s 30 minutes away from where I live now in Hamilton, Ohio. So my family can watch me play every home game, and that just means everything to me,” he said.
His plan before the 2020-21 school year was to return to Hawaii and play his junior season with Maryknoll. The pandemic and eventual cancellation of high school winter sports in the islands ended that dream. Tolentino was voted No. 3 in the Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15 as a sophomore.
“I actually enrolled at Hamilton High School in the second quarter and played high school basketball with them. I just felt like that was the best idea and decision for me and my family. It was tough leaving Maryknoll, but they will always have a special place in my heart. And making history, going back-to-back state championships was just amazing,” Tolentino said.
Prior to committing and decommitting from Auburn, he had offers from Kansas and Tennessee State after leaving Maryknoll to train year-round on the mainland. Former Kamehameha player E.J. Kapihe also trained with
Down the road, there may be other possibilities like the NBA’s G League.
“I will consider it if they offer me, but it will be a very tough decision,” Tolentino said. “I just think Cincinnati is my home away from home, and I jsut feel like the college route is the way to go.”