Wednesday, February 17, 1999
Kalaheo sensation Julian Sensley,By Cindy Luis
the fifth-rated junior power forward in
the West, might leave Hawaii to attend
a prep school on the mainland
Options .... options.
Does he pass or does he shoot?
Does he drive the baseline for a reverse, squeeze through two defenders like jello for a layup, or take a chance on a 3-pointer?
On the court, Julian Sensley has a seemingly endless number of options.
But off the court, the junior forward for the Kalaheo High School boys' basketball team has just two: Does he stay or does he go?
Sensley, a 6-foot-812 forward for the undefeated Mustangs, is considering a financial aid offer from St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Conn. The prestigious all-boys Catholic prep boarding school, with a total enrollment of 180 in six grades (8th through Post Graduate), is located on 100 acres outside of Hartford.
Tuition, including room and board, is $17,325. The school's mission is "to educate the learner who needs a structured environment and help the underachiever prepare for college."
Sensley, a C-average student, knows he fits the above description. And he knows it's an opportunity that doesn't come along often, especially for an athlete in Hawaii.
But, then again, an athlete like Sensley doesn't come along often in Hawaii or elsewhere.
Sensley's been rated the No. 5 junior power forward in the West by West Coast Hoops, an online rating service. Editor Michael Miller has him in his top 50 players nationally in the Class of 2000.
David Benezra, the editor and co-publisher of Recruiting USA magazine, was so impressed with Sensley's performance in last summer's Adidas Classic in Las Vegas that he offered him a spot on his under-17 AAU team, L.A. Rockfish.
Teammate Shantay Legans, one of the top point guards in the country nicknamed Sensley "The Jewel."
The prep school would be a chance to polish Sensley, academically and athletically. It also would give him a fifth year of high school to grow into his still-growing body.
Sensley hasn't decided what to do. At the moment, his thoughts are on winning a state championship.
The Mustangs (12-0) are seeded No. 1 in the 43rd Hawaii High School Athletic Association Tournament, which opened yesterday. Tonight at 6:30 p.m., Kalaheo will take on Castle, a 37-28 winner over defending state champion Iolani.
"I'm going to wait until after the state tournament to decide," said Sensley. "It doesn't depend on whether we win or not. I'm still looking at all the options.
"I want to take my game up to another level, maybe get an extra year of high school," Sensley said. "I could stay here for another year, then go there. I could also just stay and graduate from here and go on to college. I haven't made a decision yet and am just taking it a step at a time."
Sensley is being recruited by more than 80 Division I schools, including Top 10 teams Connecticut and Cincinnati.
When Cal was out to play Hawaii last November, the Golden Bears' coaches made a trip over the Pali to watch Sensley practice.
There is little doubt that Kalaheo has one of the most sought-after basketball recruits ever from the state.
Mustangs coach Pete Smith knows that first-hand: his son Alika, who played basketball for the Rainbows and is going to the Anaheim Angels rookie camp as a pitcher next month, received a lot of attention.
"But it's nothing like Julian has gotten," said Smith, who has played and coached in Hawaii for some 25 years. "It's because of his size and athletic ability. Coaches who watch him always talk about his footwork. You don't usually see that in a kid that big. And his body control is superb.
"The thing is his mental game. He has to learn to be ready to play every night. He showed it the other night against Kalani (in the OIA Tournament final)," Smith said.
Against the Falcons last week, Sensley scored 25 points on 10 of 14 shooting, with 14 rebounds four assists, four steals and three blocked shots as Kalaheo won its 12th OIA championship, 82-43.
Some of his baskets "had no business going in, it was just luck," said Sensley. "After a game, I'll go back and watch the tapes, to see what I did wrong.
"When I see some of those that go in, I'm thinking 'God was with me on that one.' I'm not thinking about some of the moves. It just happens."
In 26 games this season, Sensley averaged 16.6 points and 11.9 rebounds. The only times he did not score in double figures were in December in the Iolani Nike Classic (against Punahou and St. Louis, 5 points each game) and in the OIA semifinal last week against Waianae (8 points); he missed the Kahuku game last month with the flu, which developed into a slight case of pneumonia.
"We've been very fortunate to have him," said Smith. "Prep school might be the best thing for him but I don't know if he needs to spend two years there. But that's a decision he and his family have to make."
Sensley, born in New Orleans, has lived in Kailua since he was 4 years old. He grew up playing baseball and football, but was encouraged to play basketball by his 6-7 father.
"I tried it, liked it and have continued with it," said Sensley. "I think if I hadn't grown so tall (he was 6-3 in 7th grade), I might have played football. I was the quarterback on my youth team.
"But I'm here now because of basketball. I'm anxious to get a state championship. I'm looking forward to putting up another banner (in the Kalaheo gym). We're missing a few. We came close last year (losing in the title game to Iolani in double overtime). We're using that as a motivating factor this year."
For Sensley, losing this week is not an option.