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StarBulletin.com

Defender Bajet


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 30, 2009

His dream of playing football at Kamehameha began on the offensive side of the field.

Chaz Bajet was a slotback in eighth grade, happily lining up to catch passes for the intermediate team. Blessed with more speed and agility than sheer size, it seemed a good assignment.

By his senior year, though, Bajet was a lockdown defender, a cover man at cornerback, and an All-State selection. He was one of the many reasons Kamehameha had an often impenetrable defense, freeing up his teammates and giving defensive coordinator James Nakamura an extra body to cover the rest of the field.

Defense wins championships, as it did for Kamehameha this year. But Bajet's switch from offense to defense was almost by chance.

“;I remember going out for summer (pass) league my eighth-grade year. The DB coach then was Rick Saunders. He wanted me to do some DB work,”; Bajet recalled.

Saunders didn't know the youngster was a son of a co-worker. He told Kimo Bajet, “;There's this kid who's in eighth grade. I think he can be one of Kamehameha's better DBs next year. His name is Chaz.”;

Once Chaz made the change, it was a perfect fit.

“;I like playing defense more. I like hitting, having the challenge of covering somebody, running forward and backward,”; said Chaz, who picked off eight passes as a senior.

Bajets have been on the defensive side for awhile. Two of his cousins, Brannon Bajet and Tarann Bajet, played linebacker at Castle a few years ago. Vince Bajet, Kimo's older brother, was a defensive end at McKinley.

Kamehameha football coach David Stant took to calling the cornerback “;Inspector Bajet,”; a play on the cartoon and movie character Inspector Gadget.

“;He pays so much attention to detail and he's always happy, sometimes goofy. He was so quick and had great feet, so explosive,”; Stant said.

As a sophomore starter, one play against Saint Louis let Bajet know he belonged.

“;I had to watch Tamatoa DeMello. It was second and mid-distance, so I wanted to press. It was a zero (go) route,”; he said. “;The pass was far in the front. He dove and I dove, too, and I ended up breaking it up. I had to trust in my ability, or he would've caught the ball.”;

Stant saw more than physical ability in Bajet.

“;He's a great person to be around, so easy to coach, so we knew we could invest time into him because it would pay off in the end,”; he said.

Bajet doesn't just cover on the football field. On the basketball hardwood, he lines his feet up at 45-degree angles and squats down, ready to pounce or peel back within a split second. He rolls left or right an inch at a time, a crab on roller skates with tight brakes.

“;My dad always told me, 'Basketball is about position and angles.' You won't always be the fastest or quickest guy, but there's always a way if you play position to stop somebody,”; he said of Kimo, a standout at University High in the 1980s. “;My dad helped me a lot.”;

Bajet's on-ball defensive craftsmanship was one of the reasons the Warriors won their first state basketball crown in 17 years last season.

“;He takes a lot of pride in his defense. 'This guy is not going by me' — he has that mentality. It starts with him on our defense,”; basketball coach Jesse Nakanishi said, noting that Bajet has hit clutch shots when needed. “;He's not spectacular. He's been our unsung hero.”;

On Monday, Bajet reminded his teammates about stepping up. All-State forward Micah Christenson was gone on a volleyball trip and Kamehameha rallied for a close win over Waiakea.

“;He said, 'Make the most of the opportunities you're getting. Every night, it's another opportunity for someone to step up,' “; Nakanishi said. “;His leadership skills have been the most impressive, especially this year. He'll stop me and say, 'Coach, I want to tell you something.' “;

Bajet has a 3.7 grade-point average and is exploring Brown, Dartmouth and San Diego as destinations. His attention to detail came in handy. He noticed a few spelling errors on the board as Nakanishi went through a pregame meeting during the 'Iolani Classic.

“;We're all laughing. We knew he had to run three suicides at practice,”; Bajet said.

Nakanishi says it's coming.

“;I forgot about it,”; the coach said. “;I guess I'll do one, actually. I don't know about three.”;