HALL PASS: Kahuku’s Kekaula Kaniho

Kekaula Kaniho is the latest in Kahuku’s long line of stellar defensive backs. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Over the next 24 hours, Hawaii Prep World and the Star-Advertiser will release 12 small features on the 2017 inductees into the Hall of Honor ahead of Sunday’s ceremony.

The coverage was air-tight and his vision, even with his back to the ball, was creeping on legendary. Kekaula Kaniho’s ability to master hand-to-hand combat, leverage, angles and space were unmatched in the 2015 football season, and he was just a junior.

The impenetrable air zone on his side of the field as one of Kahuku’s two Star-Advertiser All-State first-team cornerbacks — Stokes Nihipali-Botelho was the other one — were one of the keys to Kahuku’s march into the state tournament. The Red Raiders and their defense, arguably the finest in state history, then put a lid on over opponent, routing Saint Louis in the title game for the crown.

Kaniho, who is a self-confessed Lego collector, continued to build his skills on the gridiron. As a senior, he returned five interceptions for touchdowns, landing in the national record book at No. 2. Kahuku defended its OIA football championship and reached the state finals once again, this time falling to Saint Louis.

There was more to come for Kaniho, on and off the field. In the classroom, the 6-foot scholar-athlete continued immersing himself, particularly in biology. The selection process and criteria of the Hawaii Hall of Honor does not involve academic achievement, but it didn’t hurt that Kaniho graduated with a 3.9 grade-point average.

He dreams of becoming part of another team, one that advances the science of prosthetics into a new realm, making life better and easier for those who have lost a limb.

“Biology and chemistry are interesting in their unique ways. Also human anatomy. We dissected a pig in freshman year. Last year, we did a cow’s eye and a bird’s leg. I want to go into biomedical engineering. It’s a pretty diverse field from everything like the tools in surgery to research to prosthetic limbs. That’s what I want to go into,” he said. “When I went to sports medicine a couple of years ago, (physical therapist) Pat Ariki was actually talking to me about it, asking what I wanted to go into. ‘You said you should go into that. There’s such a need for it.’ ”

Kaniho, who was the leading vote-getter as an All-State first-team cornerback and defensive player of the year as a senior, will play at Boise State this fall.

He also contributed to Kahuku’s state championship in basketball.


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