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Tafuna High School Basketball Team invited to St. Francis Holiday Hoops Tourney

The Tafuna High School basketball team that will be departing the territory this Friday to compete in the St. Francis Holiday Hoop Tournament in Hawai’i next week. Head Coach Valusia Talataina leads the team – they are scheduled to return on the 26 of this month.  [photo: TG]
Student-athletes from other schools were invited to join the THS team as well

Tafuna High School’s basketball team was invited by St. Francis to compete in the St. Francis Holiday Hoops Tournament that will be held in Hawai’i, and after coming together as a group since late August – when asked why is it only Tafuna High School’s basketball team going, Valusia Talataina told Samoa News “the invitation came directly to Tafuna High School, and with that, I did invite players from the other schools.”

Talataina said of the THS basketball team going to this tournament that “we wanted to see the elite players that can make it up to the next level – the other goal was to bring them together. I hate to see fighting and violence growing amongst the students, even in their own schools, hopefully this will bring them together and the main thing is disciplining them to focus on school first, and basketball second.”

According to Talataina, he had almost 20 players tryout for the team, but he eliminated some of them based on their academics and not attending school. They’re mostly from THS, but there are two Pacific Horizon student-athletes. He said some of the other schools did not respond to the invitation.

He said, “I wanted to bring players from other schools to be part of this – so when our local basketball season started they are familiar with each other and they know each other. Hopefully they could play together, not just for the win, but work together and play together as a brotherhood in our community here in American Samoa.”

When asked if the team was ready to compete at a higher level of play, Talataina said, “Yes, we are ready to showcase – the only thing is that our environment here, our players are used to playing on a concrete court… I hope that our kids aren’t going to be shocked to see the shiny wooden courts there in Hawai’I, with the environment and surrounding there as well. Other than that, you know our kids, they will play their hearts out.”

Talataina who is the Head Coach of the Warriors basketball team and will be managing the team throughout their upcoming trip told Samoa News that this isn’t the first time he’s taken a basketball team off-island, specifically the Warriors. “This is what I did before when I was at Tafuna High School around 1995 to 1999 – I took teams off-island for the four years I was at Tafuna to participate in various tournaments in Hawai’i.”

According to Valusia, their trip to Hawai’i is somewhat a schedule conflict with some of the players that were supposed to be on the team not being able to participate due to “the football team planning to leave and go out to Hawai’i for the JPS Classics. Most of the basketball players also play football, and unfortunately I only got two players from Pacific Horizon School. We wanted some players from Faga’itua, but so far, no one has responded.”

He said, “The invitation came in June right after the school year – as I started talking with the guys and I approached the principal, she liked the idea of having the players focus on athletics and school instead of getting into trouble, especially around this time of the year.”

“Then I met with some of the coaches that I’m taking — Rev. Tavita Tili and Bishop Michael Hunter Sr. — and they agreed it was a great idea, but because of my absence for the Olympics in Rio, they gathered the team together and started to get things going. We got together as a team close to the end of August, we started practice as well as fundraising and approached some of the businesses and individuals who helped us out along the way.”

Talataina explained that the airfares and tickets are paid out of the parents’ pockets, with “each individual player paying their own fare, which we are fortunate enough to get a discount from Tuli Fruean of Hawaiian Airlines.”

He said, “We did get some help to assist with the kids accommodations and other things.” But, they still need help in that area, and letters have gone out to the business community, as well as approaching the governor and lt. governor.

“This trip is going to be a fun trip too, not only are we going to play and compete, but we also want the kids to go around and see stuff around the island and enjoy it because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity — this is the first time for most of them to be part of a trip like this, unlike football they’ve been gone for the last two years — I wanted to do this for those kids who aren’t football players.”

He continued, “For example, we have about two or three kids that are young and talented and will most likely draw attention, so hopefully this opportunity will provide a chance to further their education.”

Samoa News asked Talataina if this tournament was affiliated with the JPS Classic in Hawai’i, and he responded, “No this is not affiliated with JPS, but hopefully next year Robert Faleafine and the JPS will include us in there – unlike football and volleyball, we do have talent in basketball that needs to be exposed and showcased.”

Talataina told Samoa News that he’s confident that the team is ready, and that he has a positive feeling that after this trip, they will be getting more and more invitations throughout the upcoming years.

As for the tournament and the Warriors match up schedule for the St. Francis Holiday Hoop Tournament, Talataina said their first match would be next week Monday against Nanakuli High School.

He said, “After seeing them on the news, they look very strong. Our second match will be against Punahou High School, which will be on Tuesday – we’ll be facing Kamehameha High School right after that. It’s a three-day tournament and there will be 16 teams included with us in the mix – depending on our performance, hopefully we’ll make it to the semi’s and so forth.”

Talataina said, “I would like to thank Tafuna High School’s Principal, Beauty Tuiasosopo – she gave us the permission – special thanks to Ken Asuao and the alumni players for Tafuna from 95 to 99 for donating our game uniform that we will be wearing during the tournament – our warm up suits were donated by one of my friends in Hawai’i and our warm up shirts was donated by Ben Sauvao of Tutuila Print and Dennis Ahoia; special thanks to Sports Domain for donating duffle bags for our players, and – our travel uniform was donated by Eveni Curruthers and family.”

He added, “We would also like to thank Governor Lolo – we know we don’t have the funds to support this kind of trip, but he came out and gave us some help. We would also like to thank the DYWA and its director Jonathan Fanene, he and his family donated out of their own pockets as well as coach Shaun Nua of the Navy Football Team donated as well. Fanene and Nua played for me at Tafuna High School during their time at the Home of the Warriors and I also took them out on trips just like this one.”

Talataina concluded, “We would also like to thank all the businesses that helped out with this trip, I don’t want to name them because I might leave one out, but you know who you are.

“A special thanks to the parents of my players, especially Mr. and Mrs. Galoia, they stepped in and helped us out tremendously — and all the parents for their support — with little that we have and with the economy still in the same situation — we’re very thankful to all of them for helping us out.

“If I forgot to name anyone, please forgive me, I know the Man above will shed light on you and hopefully bless you for what you have given for His children, thank you all very much and God Bless, soifua.”