By Paul Honda
Well, since the proverbial “cat’s out of the bag” at this point — another media source has noted that former Kaimuki athlete Desmond Tautofi may return from Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) soon — let’s discuss.
I first got wind of Desmond’s possible return a few weeks ago. (So why not bring it up then? Remember, this is prep sports. When it comes to transfers and off-court issues, it’s usually best to leave it alone unless or until the rest of media jumps on it first. Then I have to get in motion. That’s the nature of the animal.)
If you didn’t know, he is the youngest of the Tautofi brothers, and one of them told me not so many years ago that Desmond is easily the most naturally talented. Considering that: Daniel Tautofi played football at UH and was one of the best basketball players in Kaimuki’s history; brother Darrell was a standout hoopster at Kaimuki and also played football at UH, I was quite impressed.
The most naturally talented? Daniel told me that Desmond was blessed with size and athleticism, a smart kid who needed to be motivated. Pushed.
Fast-forward a few years, and that turned out to be a prophecy. Desmond showed all the capability of dominating in football (defensive end) and basketball (All-State Fab 15 forward/center). At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, he was a natural while barely touching the weights.
Then came football season, senior year. One problem led to another, and Desmond found himself no longer at Kaimuki High School. Already commuting from Waipio to Kaimuki — his family had relocated recently — word was that he tried to enroll at Waipahu, but was denied. That left him few other options.
One of them was Bishop Gorman, the Las Vegas school with a renowned athletic program. Desmond has family there, so the move was made. One problem: he was stuck.
Coming back to Kaimuki was always a possibility. The basketball team was ready to welcome him back. Nobody outside of his family, probably, understands Desmond as well as coach Kelly Grant, a teacher.
The first word: To come back to Kaimuki as a transfer, Desmond would have to enroll by Nov. 25. Too late for that.
The second: To re-enroll at Kaimuki as a mainland transfer, he could play immediately, but administrators weren’t keen on allowing this. Supposedly. Yeah, that’s a head scratcher, but …
These scenarios bring us to this: It doesn’t matter (yet) what admins in the DOE decide right now because Bishop Gorman’s semester doesn’t end until Jan. 15. Until the semester ends — and Desmond’s transcript can be transfered back to Hawaii — he can’t leave Las Vegas. (Yeah, I’m thinking of Sheryl Crowe’s old hit, too. That was a catchy tune.)
So, best-case scenario for Desmond, who’s probably homesick (can’t blame him), and the Bulldogs is that he returns the week of Jan. 15, missing four regular-season games. In the Oahu Interscholastic Association, missing four games — especially the first four — is not a huge deal. With the OIA’s hit-the-lottery format — the regular season is merely for seeding teams come playoff time — it’s important just to get hot late in the season.
Kaimuki’s done it before (i.e. Beau Albrechtson and Keone Reyes’ state title year). Without Desmond, it’s a tough haul for Kaimuki, which is guard heavy (as usual).
So, that’s the not-so-proverbial ‘Dog out of the bag, one heck of a talented Bulldog. If Desmond never ends up back in kelly green and gold, so be it. But he’s paid the price, it’s safe to say. Maybe he’s matured, as teenagers tend to do in spurts.
Here’s to hoping he’s back in Palolo Valley, living with brother Daniel, and finishing his career where he started. He deserves at least that much.