'Iolani's virtuoso


POSTED: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

At face value, 'Iolani basketball star Pablo Warner comes as advertised, a hustling, sprinting, diving, whirling, scoring machine who kick starts the third-ranked Raiders.

The returning Star-Bulletin Fab 15 selection has been a big component of 'Iolani's success this season, averaging nearly 14 points per game as the Raiders (17-5 going into tonight's game against Maryknoll) have gone 7-2 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu to keep pace with league-leading Kamehameha.

“;Pablo has incredible energy,”; 'Iolani coach Mark Mugiishi said. “;He's like a buzz saw on the court. I really don't think he knows what a second gear is, because he is moving at 100 miles per hour all the time. He's an excellent athlete. He jumps well, runs well, and is very good slashing to the basket. He can certainly score.”;

The 6-foot-2, 185 pound senior forward helped 'Iolani open its league schedule in style, netting 18 points in a handy win over St. Louis. A week later, Warner came up with a team-high 13 points to spark the Raiders to an upset of then top-ranked Kamehameha, 44-42. In his team's showdown with rival Punahou, Warner scored the game-winning layup off a turnover with 13 seconds left in the game. He followed that effort with 31 points in a loss to St. Louis.

“;I just see myself as another player,”; Warner said. “;I'll do whatever it takes in the best interest of the team, no matter what the role—defense, rebounding or whatever. If I have the opportunity to score and help our team win I will take it.”;

One of just seven Hawaii prepsters nominated for the prestigious McDonald's All-American Game, Warner is also a fine student carrying a 3.5 cumulative grade-point average and an accomplished musician.

Proficient with the alto saxophone, soprano sax and guitar, Warner began his musical career as a 10-year-old attending Hawaiian Mission Academy.

“;At our school, we had to pick either band or drama, and I picked music,”; Warner said. “;My dad is a music lover and I grew up listening to all kinds of music. Our teacher, Kevin Hughes, brought in a professional sax player on stage for our intro to music and I thought it was so cool.”;

By the time he was 11, Warner was a fan of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Myles Davis and a fixture in the downtown Honolulu area, playing his alto sax on the street during his breaks as a waiter at his parents' Italian restaurant, Cafe VIII 1/2 on Alakea Street.

“;My dad definitely scared the stage fright right out of me,”; Warner joked. “;He was very encouraging with my music and he told me I had to get over it (playing in public). It was fun. I had my little spot on the sidewalk and I would play for all the passersby.”;

Soon, the young saxophonist was gigging around town, sitting in with some of Honolulu's top jazz musicians at Kapono's and various hotels in the Waikiki area. With his music talents beginning to bloom, the Warners chose to homeschool Pablo so he would have more flexibility in his schedule for music. Warner's unconventional upbringing was different by design.

“;I grew up about 40 miles north of San Francisco and I love that city,”; Robert Warner said. “;The film lore, the music scene of that time. I used to hitchhike or catch a Greyhound into the city to hear all that great music. That made a real impression on my life. So when Pablo started to show some talent, we figured it was a good idea to expose him to the real world of music. So I took him around town at night and pretty soon he was sitting in with bands and it was either deliver or go home and that really helped him develop his improv skills, since he learned to kind of feel the music before he could really read it that well.”;

The result of his unconventional musical upbringing was a unique musical skill set.

“;He (Pablo) has a good ear and is able to utilize his creative talents to play nice improvised solos,”; said 'Iolani Stage Band director Curtis Abe. “;He puts his heart and soul into the music whenever he plays. He leaves it all there for you to hear.”;

For the next three and a half weeks, Warner's primary focus will be to help deliver 'Iolani another state championship. Despite a loss in their rematch with Kamehameha last week, the Raiders remain one game out of first place and in good position to capture one of the league's berths to the state tournament in early March.

“;Our team goal is to win a state championship,”; Warner said. “;This team loves each other and we love playing together and we want to do something special. Right now, pretty much everything revolves around that.”;

Warner's future plans include pursuing options to play basketball at the small-college level in Southern California, possibly Claremont McKenna or Occidental. Attending school in the area will afford Warner the opportunity to continue his basketball career and enter the music scene in the Los Angeles area.

“;I want to continue to play basketball as long as I can,”; Warner said. “;But music will always be in the plans. I love the energy from performing on stage, watching the crowd go wild. I wanna do it all—tour with a rock band, play small clubs on the New York jazz scene, write, produce, anything that revolves around music.”;

Mugiishi marvels at Warner's wide range of talents.

“;It's like he was plucked right out of Berkeley in the 60's,”; Mugiishi said. “;He is just the neatest kid. He sees the world in a different way, like an artist. I've been coaching for 20 years now, and I've seen a lot of talented players, but I have never seen a kid with his unique blend of talents on my teams or any other. I have had a lot of guys go and do a lot of different things, but I've never had a rock star. I told Pablo that I want to be invited to his first live performance once he makes it. That will definitely be worth flying up to watch.”;