COURTESY OF SMU
Duke Hashimoto wants to play soccer as long as possible, with the goal of playing for a Major League Soccer team.
Bucking the odds
SMU’s Duke Hashimoto has recovered from his injury to get the Mustangs back on track
A wheel of energy.
That was Schellas Hyndman's impression of Duke Hashimoto when the Southern Methodist men's soccer coach saw the Iolani senior play in a mainland tournament during spring break 2002.
"Duke was a very active player, a slasher. He got knocked down and got right back up. He took on people, had good speed, was extremely quick and fearless," said Hyndman.
"He was only 17 and he was playing Under-19."
That assessment led Hyndman to recruit Hashimoto, who had seen a lot of other schools, once interested, disappear after he suffered an ACL injury to his right knee his junior year at Iolani.
Hashimoto, a two-time Star-Bulletin All-State first team selection, made a recruiting trip to the Dallas campus, liked the Mustangs program, and signed a national letter of intent.
"I've been happy with the decision. For me, it was just getting used to being in Texas. It is a different environment," said Hashimoto, a senior striker.
He has enjoyed success with the Mustangs, who joined Conference USA this year and are picked to win the league title.
Hashimoto started 19 of 21 matches as a freshman and tied for second in scoring with six goals and five assists.
"Duke did well his freshman year and was a solid starter his sophomore year. He always finds the right time to be in front of the goal," said Hyndman.
"He is not going to hit 25- or 30-yard rockets, although he keeps trying. He is very active in the goal-box area. We call the two areas on either side of posts black holes, because it is very physical in there. Duke has a way of getting in there."
Hashimoto has been the third-leading scorer the past two years with four goals and five assists in 2003 and five goals and three assists in 2004.
However, last year was cut short when he suffered an ACL injury to his left knee in the ninth match, the first conference match of the season against Creighton.
"It was a corner kick. The ball came across and I was just going to kick it away. I must have planted wrong. There was no contact," said Hashimoto.
"I was real upset because I couldn't play and I was just coming off a week where I had scored four goals."
Hyndman had sent Hashimoto back into the match with 5 minutes to go and SMU leading 1-0.
"I knew he would be active on defense for us. The surface was FieldTurf and he made an explosion move," said the SMU coach.
"Duke was our leading scorer at the time and we missed him."
Hashimoto had surgery in mid-October 2004 and it was six months before he played again. He managed to finish his rehab in time to play in a couple of matches at the end of spring practice, although he had to overcome some tentativeness.
"I was backing off the 50-50 balls and my teammates pointed out that I wasn't going hard," Hashimoto said.
"It was a matter of getting back into things.
"Once I got past the first two games, I just started going hard again."
He regained a starting berth in the Mustangs lineup after the first of two exhibition matches.
"Duke's injury is healed, but he still isn't 100 percent. We don't talk much about that because we want him to play with confidence," said Hyndman. "His timing is still off a bit, but that is not uncommon. He lacks game time but has improved each week.
"Our leading scorer is ineligible and that puts more pressure on Duke. I've got two 5-foot-7, 140-pound strikers who give everything they have and I appreciate that, but we need more. Our leading scorer is a defender."
Hashimoto, who has scored twice this year, was quick to respond when asked if he had a highlight goal or match.
"We were playing No. 4 St. Louis last year. I got put in the second half. It was 0-0 and I got the game-winner in overtime," said Hashimoto.
"One of their defenders made a bad pass on the left side and my teammate (Dario Saintus) intercepted and gave me the ball," added Hashimoto. "I hit the bottom left corner of the goal from between the 18- and 12-yard lines.
Hyndman recalls seeing Saintus pushing the ball into open space and Hashimoto taking it about 30 yards on a breakaway before scoring with his left foot.
Hashimoto is majoring in general business, but wants to play soccer as long as he can with the goal of someday performing for a Major League Soccer team. He is aware of the route Honolulu Bulls Soccer Club teammate Kenji Treschuk (Moanalua, Penn State) is taking by playing in Europe.
After the Bulls won the U.S. Youth Under-19 national title last summer, director of coaching Phil Neddo had a talk with Hashimoto.
"Phil knows what I want to do. We always talk about playing professionally, but last summer he talked about the business side, talked about contracts and about agents," said Hashimoto.
After he graduates in May, Hashimoto will have to consider options based on his degree and his athletic success.