Kahuku's Smith, Kapolei's Correa pick up weekly honors
The Red Raiders' senior center and Hurricanes' senior guard each led their respective teams to a pair of pivotal league victories last week. ScoringLive photo illustration
Male Athlete of the Week: Tolu Smith, Kahuku basketball
It's hard to miss Tolu Smith on the basketball court.
In his first season in the 50th state, the 6-foot-10 big man has made an instant impact for the Kahuku boys basketball team. Smith, a senior transfer from Mississippi, has scored in double digits in every game he has played in this season and is averaging 18.4 points per game on the year.
Smith turned in a couple of big performances for the Red Raiders (4-0) last week. He logged double-doubles against both McKinley (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Moanalua (21 points, 18 rebounds) in two tight games.
In Thursday's 48-45 road win over the Tigers, Smith shot 7 of 13 from the field and added four assists with a block. Five of his rebounds were of the offensive variety.
Two nights later, in a 62-56 win over Na Menehune, Smith was an efficient 10-of-13 shooting with two assists and two blocks. He also grabbed seven boards on the offensive glass.
"When you put up twenty-plus points and over fifteen rebounds a game that says a lot, but he's just that type of player," Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said. "That's his strength. He's just so good at getting position near the basket and he's just a high-percentage type player."
Akana said Smith's large frame, combined with a plus basketball IQ makes him a tough matchup for any team.
"He doesn't force stuff — he's a great passer — and that's why he's not easy to guard, because if he catches it in a certain place then it's over and if he catches it and you double- or triple-team him, then he can find the open man, so that makes him really dangerous with and without the ball," Akana said.
Smith is averaging 19 points per game through Kahuku's four league games. He scored a team-high 18 points in a road win over previously-undefeated Kalani Wednesday night.
Akana, whose team is replacing a bevy of talent including First Team All-Hawaii forward Daniel Fotu and Player of the Year Jessiya Villa from last year's state championship-winning team, said Smith has become the focal point of the offseason for this year's squad.
"We try to get him the ball deep in the paint and close to the basket — that's our offense," Akana said. "He's a very talented big that can handle it, that can pass, and his presence defensively is huge for us. He just protects the rim really, really well."
An ankle injury, followed by a wrist issue slowed Smith down early on the preseason, but he's been able to overcome the setbacks and ranks third in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I in scoring average.
"He's a young senior — he just turned 17 — so it's one of those where his body is changing, but at the same time he's so talented and he's so gifted that it is kind of hard to imagine him when he fills out. He's the type of player that will only get better," Akana said.
Smith, who is a 4.0 student and has signed to play for Western Kentucky next year, has made a seamless transition from the deep South.
"Hawaii is a big difference from Mississippi, but he has embraced his culture and embraced his family members here and I think he's just kind of taking it in and learning the lifestyle and continuing to learn the game of basketball, but the best is yet to come for him," said Akana, who noted Smith's work ethic has been impeccable in his short time at Kahuku.
"He's constantly working on his game and he does a really good job of practicing, not only in the gym during practice, but on his own, getting in some extra shooting at the park with his dad, so I think the young players see that and I think many of them have respect for him because of that. Of course, that's what the good players do. For him, I think he's a leader on and off the court," Akana said.
Smith and Red Raiders will host Roosevelt Friday.