The road less traveled is one that Asai Gilman will never forget.
The head coach of Team 808 Elite squad took his team from the islands to Tampa Bay, Fla., and took third place out of 32 teams at the Adidas 7-on-7 National Championships.
Gilman and assistant coaches Ricky Lumford and Kawika Kane did it with a straightforward approach, and their talented team responded.
Team 808 defeated BSP 31-14, FIG 35-7 and KT Prep 49-28, and tied Indy Select, 14-all. They lost to Ground Zero (Calif.) in the semifinals.
Among the island players who excelled were a few who were noticed by 247sports writer Andrew Ivins on his “dream team” of 14 players. Ivins singled out Saint Louis wide receiver Roman Wilson.
Gilman and the team was in the air for most of Monday, traveling home from Florida. Gilman chatted with Hawaii Prep World by phone.
“I cannot believe that this team flew all the way to Florida to compete. Tell you right now, we’re opening some eyes, man. All these five-star athletes have total respect for us,” said Gilman, who was in-between flights in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon. “These guys are the best in the nation. All these guys didn’t know who we were. They took us lightly. Just the swag, overlooking the unknown guys. They couldn’t keep up with our speed.”
Team 808 had many of the state’s top prospects, including Saint Louis quarterback Jayden de Laura. Gilman’s teams traveled to Las Vegas in 2017 and California in ’18. The ’18 squad featured QB Dillon Gabriel of Mililani, now at UCF.
“Part of the reason why I created this is to showcase to the nation that Hawaii’s skill (players) have just as much talent as the rest of the nation, and even better to some degree,” he said. “We’re not satisfied. We intended to take this. We told people we were going to the finals and semifinals, and people were laughing. All our guys were smiling.”
The trip was all about the team first, he added. No phone access during sleeping hours. No video games.
“We’re not traveling 5,000 miles one way to get distracted. This is a business trip. You come on this team, you accept the commitment with your parents, with the rules in mind,” Gilman said. “If you don’t like it, this may not be the best program for you. We’re teaching them to be grown men. They say, ‘Coach, thank you.’ “
With players like Nick Herbig (Saint Louis), there is the same expectation of focus every year.
“My purpose is the help these young people much further than football, to be great young men and eventually, husbands and fathers. This experience at the highest level can get away from you. These young men, nowadays, they need some guidance. That’s who I want to work with, who are teachable and receptive, and have the commitment and sacrifice to be that way. If they’re around me, Ricky, Kawika Kane, I think we can help them with that,” said Gilman, who has one son, Alohi, playing at Notre Dame, and another at Punahou, Alaka‘i, who is one of the top prospects in the islands.