Q&A: Punahou 4-sport athlete Duke Clemens

Punahou's Duke Clemens made the All-State football first team and the All-State boys basketball Fab 15 squad as a senior and is now pitching for the No. 2-ranked Buffanblu baseball team and competing in track and field. Photo by Craig T. Kojima/Star-Advertiser.

After all these years, Duke Clemens mastered the one skill off the field that can be troublesome for most students.

The 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior has won the battle with time. Clemens became a Star-Advertiser All-State football and basketball player at his dream school, Punahou. He learned quickly that free time on campus was best handled as an investment in the future.

“I don’t really play video games,” Clemens said. “I usually do not do homework at home. I get it all out of the way during my breaks.”

Playing three sports wasn’t enough for Clemens. He tried the shot put for the first time this spring. In his first meet, he reached 49 feet, flat, easily qualifying for the state championships. This means, of course, that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he squeezes in reps in the pit before heading to baseball practice.

He’ll be at UCLA this summer to begin his next chapter. He loves the ocean, and Westwood is in good proximity to some of Southern California’s nicest spots. He’ll also be a center, probably, in Coach Chip Kelly‘s read-option system. Who knows, maybe Clemens will get a snap or two at his favorite position, tight end.

“My favorite memory of Duke in a football game was when he chased down an intercepted ball and tackled the guy before he scored,” said classmate Marist Liufau, who signed this year with Notre Dame. “I will miss Duke for his sense of humor and chill personality.”

Clemens chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Saturday, shortly after the Punahou Relays at Alexander Field. He was featured in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which you can read here.

Duke Clemens
Football, basketball, baseball, track and field

Q & A / Favorites
Athlete: JJ Watt
> I just like his intensity, and how he’s big and athletic. When they had that big storm in Texas, he gave back so much to the community.

Team: Los Angeles Rams
> Ever since they signed Jared Goff, I’ve been a fan. After they moved to LA.

Food at home: Breakfast
> I like waking up and my mom (Drae Kahale-Clemens) is already cooking breakfast. That’s probably the best. She’s always surprising me with different meats and different styles of making breakfast. She’ll change up the meats with some Vienna sausage, bacon, Spam, sometimes she’ll cook fried rice.

Food eating out: L&L Hawaiian BBQ
> I like getting hamburger steak/BBQ chicken combo plate, fruit punch, some fries sometimes.

Hobby outside of sports: Ocean sports
> I’m pretty crafty in the ocean. Bodyboarding, diving, paddling, things like that. I like going to Makapuu. After you catch some waves, you can go out by the point and dive. I just like being in the water, spending all day there. Oahu is kind of overfished, but I would love to go diving and camping off the grid and catch my own fish. That would be fun.

Movie: Stepbrothers
> It’s a comedy with Will Ferrell. I can watch that over and over. It’s a good plane movie.

TV show: Supernatural
> It’s on the CW, but I like to binge watch it on Netflix. These two brothers hunt ghosts, demons, whatever is supernatural. One brother has supernatural powers.

Video games
> I don’t really play video games.

Music artist: Eminem
> If I’m working out, I’d start with “I’m Not Afraid”, then jump to the old stuff like “Slim Shady.” I like the first song to get pumped. His live voice is more ummpf in it. You can tell he’s angry, and it makes you more motivated to lift more.

Teacher: Christie Gabriano, a.k.a. Auntie Gabes,
> She used to work in the library, but she just retired. She knows a lot of things. If I’m doing homework in the library, she’ll always be able to help me.

GPA: 3.6
> If I wasn’t an athlete, and not at Punahou, it would be higher. At Punahou, it’s not a weighted GPA and I take a couple of APs (advanced placement), so it would probably be higher because I tend to do good in my AP classes. And if I wasn’t an athlete, I’d probably have more time to study for tests. At Punahou, you really learn to manage your time.

> I usually do not do homework at home. I get it all out of the way during my breaks. We don’t really have a set lunch period. You go when you can, so some days I can start at 9:30 and finish at 11:30. It’s like college, I guess. I go in the library. There’s a social area, and there’s a thing call silent section. I can work with a group of people, but when I really need to get things done for the next class, I jump in the silent section and get it done.

Class: Creativity in Composition
> It was an art credit and English credit combined. We would make beats. We had a music teacher and an English teacher, and we would have to write lyrics, go in Garage Band.
> Chemistry: I think it’s the most interesting to me. Punahou’s thrown so much at you. I might go into business or agriculture. Everything at school is about real-world problems.

Motto/Scripture: If it was easy, everyone would do it

What mom says: I love you
> She tells me she loves me every day.

What dad (Teo Clemens) says: Every day is the Super Bowl

What you coaches say: Don’t be afraid to be the best (Kenny Patton)

How do sports affect your life?
> They keep me busy. At the end of the school year, there’s nothing to do, and that’s when I could get out of shape. Being able to go to the next season keeps me busy and in my daily routine.

Will there be break time after graduation?
> Our graduation day is June 1. I’ll probably not be taking any time off. I’ll be taking off to college two or three weeks after graduation. If I take time off, it’ll be harder for me to handle the workouts (at UCLA). I’m trying to be the most prepared I can be so I can play.

Elementary school St. Anthony’s, St. John Vianney
> I remember how strict the uniforms were. Polo shirt, collared shirt every day. I could never have this long hair.

> “It was sixth grade. All my cousins went to Kamehameha, Saint Louis. That’s where I used to want to go, but once my sister got in here and I saw the campus, I wanted to come here. I tested here and I got in,” Clemens said. “I wanted to maximize my potential. The network. The opportunities.”

Youth sports
> Football: I started playing when I played 8 or 9 on base with a flag football team. Then I played Kailua Mustangs for a year. I was playing middle linebacker and O-line. Then I was too heavy for Pop Warner and I went back to flag. I was a quarterback. It was fun. I liked it. Our coach is very dedicated. We’d line up and look to the sideline, and he would give us signals. Scott Laboy was the coach and his sons were playing. I was playing all over, but I liked quarterback the best. Then I played intermediate football (at Punahou).

> Punahou JV: I had to play both ways. Our intermediate definitely had more numbers. I think for some reason, we’re not getting the kids we want. At Punahou, we choose the smart athletic kids. You’ve got to be smart to get in here.

> Basketball: I was 7 or 8, played at KBA. Once I started going to 10-foot rim, then I was playing town basketball. Sharks. Hui Lokahi. That was Makana Laboy, Kekaula Kaniho, Kama Kamaka, Brian Washington, Jonah Welch. All those kids, we all grew up playing football and basketball together.

Baseball: Tee-ball, coach pitch was when I was 8 or 9. That’s when I could hit home runs. Back then, they weren’t throwing curve balls, so it was easier to hit. I haven’t hit in a game since eighth grade or freshman year. That was the last time I played a position. My primary position was first base. I became a pitcher when I was on varsity.

I always want to play. I always want to shine. I do wish I was in more games, but I don’t mind being a good teammate. It seems to be working, me not playing, but if I get my time, that’s big on my list.

Travel history
> I’ve been to China for baseball. California for baseball and football. Texas for The Nike Opening. Arizona for baseball. The Opening was the top players, and you have to (qualify) at the regionals. You get a bunch of gear and clothes. The Opening was before senior year started and people are more competitive because they’re figuring out what college they’re going to. I also played football in Mexico.

What you’re good at that nobody knows about.
> I used to play piano. I can play ‘Chopsticks.’ I can’t read music anymore.

> UCLA was different because of the facilities, the coaching staff, the location of the school and how nice the campus was. When I visited there, it just felt right and I wanted to commit right there. It’s the closest feeling to home.

Bucket list
> One day, I want to live in Dubai for a couple of years. That’s like luxury, a lot of rich people, and hopefully, I’ll be rich, too. They have beaches there, too.
> Probably, Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand. Take a good month off and travel. It sounds like fun.

Time machine
> I’d probably go back to the 1980s and experience life in Hawaii and California. I’d probably want to go to concerts, probably Michael Jackson. I feel like the ‘80s is when everything started to evolve. Definitely watch football. I’d probably want to watch Lawrence Taylor. I’d want to meet him.

History of your name
> I was named after Duke Kahanamoku because all my family loves the ocean, being water people. Clemens is a French name from my grandpa. He’s half-Samoan, half-French. His name is Rene Clemens. He still lives in American Samoa. I’ve never known him. They got divorced when my dad was a little kid. My mom is from here. Her maiden name is Kahale. Miah Ostrowski, his parents met my parents in school. That was my dad’s friend. My parents are good role models. They did it the right way. You get the message. My mom is more strict on me.


  1. reinaldo corpuz April 18, 2019 9:34 am

    Inspiring student athlete who will go far because of his work ethic and his self-determination. He is well grounded and raised well by his parents. I wish him well and will be looking out for him as he begin his next stage. Thank you Mr. Paul Honda for writing yet another super feature article. His story will inspire other young student athletes to excel and follow their passions. Go Punahou!!
    Rei Corpuz

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