WAILUKU - Pasoni Tasini has now seen snow - and his future.
Tasini returned to Baldwin High School basketball practice on Monday with peace of mind, knowing that the University of Utah is his football destination.
The Maui Interscholastic League Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, all-state defensive lineman and reigning MIL Boy Athlete of the Year verbally committed to the Utes on his official recruiting visit to Salt Lake City over the weekend.
He also experienced snow for the first time.
"That is the first time I have been in snow, the first time I have actually played with it," he said. "Everybody was laughing at me because I was over there making snowballs and snow angels, like a kid in a candy store. Everything, I was going off inside the snow. I have got to buy some warm clothes, but I can get used to the weather. It felt good to be in something different than just always hot."
Tasini said he will sign a letter of intent Wednesday, the first day high school seniors can do so.
Tasini is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an important factor in Utah's favor. He plans to take a two-year Mormon mission, either before enrolling or after his freshman year.
"That was an important part of my decision because actually going to Utah is not going to be taking me away from my church and what I believe in," he said. "Church is going to be, like, strict on us over there, so it is nothing different for me."
Utah defensive line coach Chad Kauhaahaa, a former Baldwin player and coach who was a Western Athletic Conference second-team defensive lineman for the Utes in 1996, was the lead recruiter for Tasini. A talk with head coach Kyle Whittingham sealed the deal for Tasini on his visit.
"I am relieved, this is kind of what I was leaning towards because they were the most likely to help me if I am going to go on my mission or not," Tasini said. "I understand with the coaches that if I do go on my mission I will have a scholarship on hold for me."
Tasini said his decision came down to Utah over Oregon State. He also had scholarship offers from Hawaii and Nevada-Las Vegas.
His first glance at the Utah campus and Rice-Eccles Stadium made an impression.
"Nice campus, big stadium," he said. "The first time I saw the stadium I was, like, 'Man, that is bigger than Oregon State's.' The campus was nice, they had, like, the Mormon center over there. And just everything about it was nice."
Tasini said UH made a late run at him with a visit from an assistant coach last week.
He said he may have to attend a junior college before going to Utah - his score on next month's SAT will be key.
"Academically, I think I can do it and make it into Utah (as a freshman)," he said.
Either way, and after his mission, he said the Utes want him at defensive end. He played there, on the offensive line and at tight end in 2011, when Bald-win went to the state semifinals.
Tasini said he is currently 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, and wants to be "6-4 and 250, 260 when I get there."
The fifth of Nola and Pone-pate Tasini's six children will be the first in his family to attend college. He said younger sister Kisaea, a Baldwin sophomore, is paying attention.
"I am trying to set an example for my younger sister, show her that she should go to college, too," he said. "My mom always tells me that I am the first one to make it, so she is just proud. I am always nagging my sister about college. She is way smarter than me."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org