Gaining recognition: Kohala’s Cazimero named Gatorade Hawaii Boys Basketball Player of the Year

  • O’shen Cazimero holds up the state championship trophy while celebrating Kohala's Division II boys basketball state title in 2020. Cazimero was named the Gatorade Hawaii Boys Basketball Player of the Year on Friday. (Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Kohala's O'shen Cazimero was named the Gatorade Hawaii Boys Basketball Player of the Year on Friday. Cazimero is the first from Kohala to be chosen for the award. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

O’shen Cazimero ended the 2019-20 high school basketball season with the first-ever state title for Kohala High School.

He’s ending this school year with another first for the Cowboys.

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The junior guard was named the Gatorade Hawaii Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season Friday, and is the first basketball player from Kohala to be chosen for the award.

“I just feel really honored,” Cazimero said. “It felt like a lot of work really paid off, and I’ve been thinking about the people that helped me get through this. Whether it’s friends that helped me in school or helped me with basketball, or my family — it’s been family and friends helping me out a lot and supporting me all the way through.”

The award is given to high school student-athletes from each state in each sport who showcase outstanding athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character.

With being named the Player of the Year for Hawaii, Cazimero is now a finalist for the National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award, which will be announced later this month.

Cazimero helped lead Kohala to the HHSAA Division II state championship for the 2019-20 season, the program’s first state title. In the state tournament that year, he averaged 22 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.7 steals per game.

He hopes to end his senior basketball season in 2022 the same way.

“We just have to keep the same attitude that we had that year we won the state championship,” Cazimero said. “But it also falls on me, since I’m one of the team captains. We all have to push each other, we have to get on to some people. But we have to work together as a team and have that same goal of getting the title again.”

His junior season this past winter was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although Big Island schools held a shortened season for winter sports, without a BIIF or state championship. Cazimero and his fellow Cowboys played as a club team for the few games they played in.

Cazimero has been doing everything he can to prepare for next season, as the Cowboys look to win at state again. Cazimero said he knows the Player of the Year award and recent championship will make Kohala one of the teams to beat in Division II next year.

“Ever since COVID started and I was unable to play, I’ve been doing workouts at home, lifting with one of my friends,” Cazimero said. “I lift in the mornings at the school with one of my teachers also, and there are some days I play basketball outdoors. I’ve just been preparing for next year, because now that I’ve been named Player of the Year, a bunch of people now know me, and I’ll have a bigger target on my back.”

Cazimero said some of the biggest supporters he’s had while growing as a basketball player have been his mom and dad. He also credits his teacher Blaise Kise, who he’s been working out with during the pandemic, and his friend and teammate Koby Agbayani.

“Koby, he’s my friend that I lift and work out with, and he’s been my good friend since day one,” Cazimero said. “We’ve just been working out together to get to that goal of a state championship.”

Cazimero has also maintained a 3.76 GPA at Kohala heading into his senior year.

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As the first Cowboy to earn the honor, Cazimero represents both Kohala and athletes from smaller schools in the state who are often overlooked for such awards. He said other student-athletes looking to follow in his footsteps should keep their standards high in the classroom and on the court.

“That’s one of the main, important things that I would like to tell them, to stay updated on their grades in school,” Cazimero said. “And sports-wise, whatever sport they’re playing, they just need to keep working through everything. There’s going to be ups and downs. Even if you think you’re good, you can never settle to just be good, you can keep getting better and better. There’s always room for improvement.”

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