Tennessee State came calling and Sage Tolentino now has two Division I college basketball scholarship offers.
Tennessee State was 18-15 last season, including 9-9 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Belmont, Murray State and Austin Peay are the league’s top teams.
“I just feel the same way about the Kansas offer. Every offer is amazing for me. It doesn’t matter which school is the top school. Every school has a purpose,” Maryknoll’s 7-foot junior said on Tuesday from Cincinnati. “The school connected with me when we did a Zoom meeting yesterday. Their coach really has a passion for basketball and really inspired me.”
That coach is Brian “Penny” Collins, who got a look at the versatile Tolentino recently. Collins is entering his third season as head coach and saw some raw footage of Tolentino via East West Private. A supporter of East West Private, former NBA player Frank Robinson, is a fan of Tolentino and Coach Collins.
“Sage is a great kid. I think, more than anything, that’s what stood out the most. He’s a humble young man and when you talk about being on the court, confidence and being able to utilize that confidence and mixing it in with your skill-set, he played against Kai (Sotto), he held his own,” Robinson said. “The next day, he started to open up a little bit, showing us the athleticism, running the floor, he can shoot, holds his own defensively and takes pride in that.”
Sotto is a heralded 7-2 high schooler from the Philippines who also works out with East West Private. He had a breakout winter season with The Skill Factory (Atlanta, Ga.) and was highly recruited, but joined the G League in May and is now a pro athlete.
Robinson doesn’t have an official title with the group, but is a key mentor. He envisions a consistent evolution for Tolentino.
“He’s amazing to see. For me, he’ll work on getting in the best shape he’s been in. I haven’t had a chance to tell him, but I hope he understands when you’re in the best shape all the time, your natural skill-set is elevated. A 7-footer who can shoot, run and is athletic, can play with his back to the basket, in shape it’ll be tough for anyone at the prep or college level to stop him,” Robinson said.
Maryknoll won its second D-I state championship in a row last winter as Tolentino became dominant. He was voted No. 3 in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball All-State Fab 15 by coaches and media. He was also voted defensive player of the year.
On Tuesday afternoon, Tolentino was still stoked about a Monday run on the hardwood that included New Orleans Pelicans forward Jackson Hayes, a resident of Cincinnati. Tolentino is training in Cincinnati while logging in with Maryknoll’s virtual classes.
“On Sept. 11, we go back to school (on campus), but I don’t know now because of the lockdown,” Tolentino said. “I don’t like (online learning), but it is what it is. It’s worth it for sure, ‘cause I can come back to Maryknoll for one last season.”
In other words, junior year will likely be his last as a Spartan.
“Senior year, most likely I’m going to school on the mainland,” he said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time and one step forward every day, trying to get better in the gym, staying focused on school and my basketball development process.”
Meanwhile, back home in Kaneohe, his older sister, Shayla, is celebrating.
“Shout out to my family. It’s my sister’s birthday today. This is her birthday gift since I’m not there,” Tolentino said. “She’s 19 today.”