Gifted guard


POSTED: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

He was the kid with the intangibles and skills spectators had trouble describing.

They struggled to find the right superlatives for him, eventually praising his “;feel for the game,”; his “;on-court presence,”; and his “;in-game flow.”;

Those compliments have followed David Taulung throughout his basketball life, from his days playing for the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii to his current stint as Kaimuki's heralded senior point guard.

“;He can foresee things on the court and has a knack for finding his teammates,”; said Bulldogs head coach Kelly Grant. “;He'll make passes that your ordinary Joe can't make. The other guys on the team have learned to get their hands ready, because the ball is coming.”;

The son of Micronesian immigrants, Taulung gravitated toward basketball at a young age.

“;He walked by the gym one day and hung by the door, real hesitant and kind of fearful,”; said Ron Fitzgerald, who at the time was the Program and Athletic Director of the Boys & Girls Club's Charles C. Spalding Clubhouse in McCully. “;He eventually came in and started playing, and you could tell he was a natural.”;

Taulung's father, sensing his 8-year-old son's interest in the sport, approached Fitzgerald and asked if David could join the Spalding Club team.

Since then, Taulung has honed his on-court skills in organized leagues, effectively keeping him out of the types of trouble that engulfed many of his peers.

“;There are others on the outside that got into trouble, and I was too busy in the gym working on my jump shot,”; said Taulung.

“;He was like the model kid for all Micronesians in that area,”; Fitzgerald said. “;He was one of the few that stuck with organized basketball. A lot of them would quit, but he always showed up.”;

Taulung played in league matches, then searched for pick-up games on the side. He had basketball on the mind, with little time for much else.

“;Back when I was in middle school I used to carry a ball around all day,”; Taulung said. “;I'd be in class dribbling the ball, I'd walk to the bus stop dribbling the ball. I was always dribbling.”;

But as he soon found out, playing the game has its prerequisites.

Taulung's fixation with basketball eventually caught up with him in high school, when he was declared academically ineligible at midseason during his sophomore year—his first playing for the varsity.

For the first time since he began playing, Taulung was without a game.

“;We won states that year,”; he remembered. “;Just watching them win like that. I was supposed to be on that team. It was the worst feeling in my life. I missed being on the court, with the ball, doing my thing.”;

Taulung decided not to abandon the game, or his teammates, again. Although he continues to struggle with his academics, Taulung has played the last two seasons suspension-free under Grant's watchful eye.

“;Coach Grant knows every single teacher, and every single teacher knows him,”; Taulung said. “;If I'm slacking off, they know the one person to go to is Coach.”;

Grant used to walk Taulung to classes and this year he continues to make in-class visits. Taulung has taken well to his coach's stern approach and is making strides in the classroom.

“;I wish I could rewind back. I used to be a lazy kid, school-wise,”; said Taulung. “;I didn't look at it as a priority. I was always thinking basketball. Now, I tell myself graduation is a must.”;

Better grades have kept Taulung on the court and opposing teams have taken notice. The 5-foot-9 point guard is averaging more than 15 points per game, shooting 44 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc. He has 56 steals in 23 games for the fourth-ranked Bulldogs (9-3), who with a 61-50 victory over Farrington last Friday locked up the East's No. 2 seed in the upcoming Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference playoffs. Kaimuki plays either Radford or Kaiser at Mililani in tomorrow's second round.

“;He's always in motion and keeps defenses off balance,”; said Moanalua head coach Greg Tacon. “;He's definitely worthy of all-state consideration.”;

Taulung could choose to score more, as he did last summer when he posted numerous 25 point games, but with offensive weapons like sharp-shooting senior Ryan Kakitani and athletic big man Desmond Tautofi, Taulung has embraced the pass-first, shoot-second mantra.

“;The thing about being a point guard, you have to make everyone on the team look good,”; said Taulung. “;Desmond is always ready for my passes, Ryan always spots up. I have so many options.”;

In his senior year, Taulung is showcasing an all-around game that could potentially lead to college opportunities. According to Grant, a few junior colleges have expressed interest.

Taulung is also intrigued by the prospect of playing for Kosrae, the homeland of his parents, in the Federated States of Micronesia Games.

Although Taulung remains uncertain about his future, he hopes the title of state champion will soon be added to the list of superlatives that follow him.