Named after his father, Christmas Togiai has long been considered a gift to his family, and the game of basketball has created a similar feeling of gratitude for the recent Kamehameha graduate.
Togiai, a standout guard considers his time on the hills of Kapalama as a catalyst for his maturation both on and off the court.
“I think starting from freshman year it made me able to step into somewhat of a leadership role, really just helped me a lot even off the court, just with like confidence and meeting new people. I think all of that stemmed from the basketball court and just repping the Kamehameha blue and white is just something really special,” Togiai told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
That humility and respect for the game was the foundation of his approach. Add to that fundamentals along with a balance of physicality and finesse, and Togiai’s game was unmatched in the Aloha State. Where in addition to averaging 14 points per game, his intangibles earned him multiple player of the year awards and earlier this week was selected to the HHSAA Hall of Honor. An accolade that also acknowledges success in the classroom and community.
“My parents always stressed that you’re always a student athlete first it’s never athlete student, and just being a role model for like little kids. We had a little drive by (celebration) and a little little kids were coming on senior night and I had a lot of little kids coming up to me, and I was like, wow, I’m really playing for something bigger than me. That’s really a big thing for me.”
Despite the story book senior season, Togiai’s prep playing career did not have a Disney ending, where in the state tournament’s semifinal round, after scoring 14 points and collecting six rebounds in a win against Kahuku, Togiai went down to a torn ACL. Immediately putting an end to his high school hoops career forcing him to be on the bench for the Warriors state title game loss to Maryknoll the very next night.
“I think when it first happened I was a little angry at first but sometimes life doesn’t go your way. This injury has really helped me really think about what’s important in my life. Basketball is always going to be there for me but there’s always more to life than just basketball,” said Togiai.
One of those things that Togiai cherishes has been unconditional support as friends and family over the last couple of months have gone above and beyond to offer assistance through his rehabilitation.
“I want to give a big shout out to my parents. They really helped me throughout the first couple weeks of coming out of surgery. It was really hard to move. It was a really humbling experience and all my friends, as soon as I got hurt they were just trying to get me out of the house so I couldn’t dwell on it and just the support and love that everyone gave me, it was really a blessing and I’m very thankful for all that.”
As Togiai remains grounded from the injury, the irony is that his future will take him to new heights, where after a red-shirt season to recover he’ll play college ball at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with his sights set on becoming a commercial pilot.
“I’m just really stoked just to have another opportunity to be able to suit up and play basketball again, so that’s been a big motivation for me when I’m rehabbing, that it’s not over, there’s another chapter in my life. Being able to go into aeronautical, I’m just taking it all in like then we experiences and just being able to live it up up there, is it’s going to be fun.”