It was late night and O’shen Cazimero just couldn’t fall asleep.
It was fate. Good fate.
“An email popped up on my phone from Gatorade. There was a banner and a video,” Cazimero said of the Hawaii Gatorade boys basketball player of the year award.
Kohala won the 2019-20 Division II state championship with Cazimero as its leading scorer. There was no ’20-’21 season, however, because of the pandemic.
“Winning it is a great honor because there were a lot of other great basketball players going for this award. Winning it is a great honor because those other guys are next level. I was surprised,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve got a lot of awards and I’m known by a bunch of people, but these guys may be better than me.”
Kohala coach Kihei Kapeliela didn’t know underclassmen could qualify.
“I was actually surprised he got nominated. I thought it was for seniors. I wasn’t surprised that he won,” he said. “That kid never surprises me. I’m stoked for him and his family. He’s been working out every day since we won the championship, lifting twice a day.”
One of the key elements of qualifying for the award is academics. Cazimero has a 3.75 grade-point average. Community service is a big factor, too.
Kapeliela sees the influence Cazimero has on younger hoopsters.
“For sure, he’s the first from Kohala to win this, that’s for sure. A lot of the young kids look up to O’shen and he’s like a role model. He’s so humble. He likes to play with the kids,” Kapeliela said.
“We’ve done food drives, passing out food to people,” said Cazimero, who is president of the student credit union. “There’s probably 10 to 20 of us. We do beach cleanups, highway cleanups, Christmas caroling to the elderly at Kohala Hospital.”
The singing, he noted, isn’t award-winning on his part.
“I’m not a good singer. I wouldn’t even put myself as average,” he said. “I always get teased by my family that I can’t sing.”
The state’s lockdowns and the continued restrictions on gyms has been rough for basketball players like Cazimero.
“I’ve been traveling to Oahu some weekends and playing with the (Hawaii) Raiders. We play in the Menehune League and we played in the ESB Tournament (in Kunia),” he said. “I’m going up again next weekend.”
Cazimero will travel to Seattle in a couple of weeks for a tournament. At the end of July, his club team on the Big Island, Shut D, will travel to Las Vegas.
“We usually go to the NBA Summer League. It’s good fun to watch,” he said.
Playing hoops in Kohala, once a basic staple for players young and old, is not so common right now.
“On Oahu, it’s better. I get to at least have some games. We used to have outdoor runs, but it stopped the past couple of months. Only five guys show up,” Cazimero said. “On Oahu, I took the opportunity because I don’t know when I’ll get it again.”
There are, he added, gyms in Waimea and Hilo that are open with precautions.
“I’m in driver’s ed, and I’ll finish at the end of next month or beginning of August. I have my permit,” Cazimero said.
When he wasn’t studying, he spent hours weight training at a friend’s house.
“Kody Agbayani, my teammate. I’ve been working out with him since we were little,” he said.
He is, like his father, Kohala assistant coach Reeve Cazimero, a born-and-raised Cowboy athlete. But the natural question from outsiders remains. What if there is no high school basketball season again?
“For me, I’m probably going to just stay. There’s a lot of players who asked what’s my plans, but me and dad were talking. If there’s no season, I would probably have to move,” he said. “I have been asked to play with ‘Iolani my freshman year, and also for HPA. For ‘Iolani, I was being asked by the school, and also HPA. I took a tour and stuff (at Hawaii Prep). I took a pre-ACT, finished that. I could have gone, except money-wise, that was really hard for us. There was no scholarship, so we turned it down. ‘Iolani, I didn’t have the effort.”
The special pride among Kohala Cowboys has been rooted in basketball for decades. Cazimero has confidence, but is also pragmatic. Winning the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, with its meshed regular-season schedule, has multiple meanings. HPA had the best win-loss record in the ’19-’20 season among D-II and D-I programs.
Who is the favorite for the ’21-’22 season?
“I would like to us us, but I don’t really want to be like that. I feel like the team to watch is Hawaii Prep again. In D-I, there’s not a whole lot of teams. The most competition in my years, my sophomore year, that was the toughest year. This past year was going to be a great year. The favorite for D-I was either Kealakehe or Konawaena. Those were some tough teams, and also Kamehameha (Hawaii),” Cazimero said. “A lot of teams lost all their (best) players to graduation this year.”
Kohala has La‘akea Kauka, Agbayani and Cazimero as its returning core.
“Everybody else was on JV, and we actually had a great JV team. These are the guys we grew up playing with, our age group. Some of the guys on JV could have played varsity,” he said.
The night of the ’19-’20 state final is immortalized. Every wild, crazy, football-ish foul or non-call, all in the ether.
“I go on to the internet and watch it. We have it recorded. That’s one thing. On Oahu, they let you play a lot more. On the Big Island, they call a lot of ticky-tack fouls, so we’re always hesitant. Our team is capable of playing physical,” he said.
In the meantime, life is day to day.
“Me and my mom (Crystal) got vaccinated. The second day (after the second shot), I felt like she did. We got our shots at the same time. She was going in by herself, but I felt like I should go in, too. I didn’t want her to do it alone,” he said. “I woke up (the next day) feeling achy, so I went to work out. I lifted and I played basketball. Once I started lifting, I felt a little better, sweating it out. It felt better throughout the day. Not fine, still felt achy a little.”
O’shen Cazimero’s Lockdown Staples
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “Space Jam”
“My favorite movie. There’s Michael Jordan in there. The greatest player of all time.”
“All NBA. I watch a lot of the games and highlights, kind of study a lot. I’ve been loving the way James Harden has been playing with the Nets. Him and Steph Curry were really entertaining this year.”
3. “Last Chance U” (Netflix)
“Watching and listening to what happened after JUCO, I see Division I and all these levels. JUCO looks like something I can start with, start off small and work up to a bigger college.”
Top 3 food/snacks/drinks
“I like the homemade spaghetti from my parents (Reeve and Crystal). I gotta say my mom’s is better. She makes it with love. It’s hard to choose, but I think mom has the edge. She has hamburger in the sauce. I don’t put Parmesean cheese on it.”
2. Raising Cane’s
“There’s one at Ala Moana, so when I stay there, that’s where I go to eat.”
3. Gatorade, lemon line
4. Chili (by dad)
“It’s hamburger and, I think, it’s kidney beans. Not really spicy. There’s onions, but not too much of anything else. That’s what makes it special.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Lil Baby – “Sum 2 Prove”
2. Polo G – “GOAT”
3. Travis Scott – “5% TINT”
New life skill: Driving and weight training
“I’ve learned about better form in everything. We start off with stretching and warming up. Every day changes. Bench press, military, squats, leg extension. We do jump rope once in awhile at the outdoor courts.”
“First off, my parents. Family and friends. And everyone who supported me through my journey from day one to now.”