Vocal Beasley left lasting impression


POSTED: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

One thing I could always count on at a Roosevelt basketball game was seeing Tati Beasley. Or actually, hearing her.

I'd be in the gym less than a minute or two before I'd hear, “;Honda, what's up?”;

It wasn't so much a question as it was an exclamation. If you wanted to be incognito, forget it. Tati spotted everything and everyone, both on and off the basketball court. Fortunately, hearing her sometimes booming voice also meant seeing a real basketball fan, which made me happy every time. Hoopaholics recognize each other quite quickly.

Tati died in a still-unexplained car wreck early Sunday morning, leaving her family and basketball ohana with a lot of questions and a lot of heartbreak.

Tati was one of those kids who was more like a grown-up, sort of like a coach, when she'd say hi to me. It had always been that way, even before I wrote about her in 2006. A lot of kids who grew up fast or had more struggles is because of a broken family; Tati was clearly one of them.

Yet, when we talked back in '06 after she had a stellar senior year on the basketball court (14 points, 11 rebounds and three steals per game), she had no bitterness. At least, if she had any, she hid it well. Losing in the state final to Punahou didn't sour her AZ— not outwardly — but it shouldn't have anyway. Roosevelt's run to the title game that year was magical.

She went years without seeing her dad. Mom was in prison. No problem. She dwelled on the positives, like her relationships with her auntie and grandma, who raised her. She reunited with her dad. She also talked about her teammates and Coach Bobby Keanini — the strong hand who never let his star and leader off the hook if and when she was occasionally belligerent.

The Roosevelt basketball community is a tight one. Part of it is because a lot of the 808 Basketball Club, which held its weekly clinic on campus for years, just a short walk from Papakolea Homestead. It was more than a game for kids growing up and attending Roosevelt. Tati was part of the core. If you were talking about Roosevelt girls hoopsters in the middle of this decade, No. 11 was discussion point No. 1.

I can't quite explain adequately how much her sense of humor and frank personality set her apart from other players. Most kids, particularly in girls sports, tend to shy away from sportswriters, photographers and other media people in general. Tati had the savvy and understanding of a college-level athlete. Most of all, she had heart. She came to grips with her family's situation a long time ago and learned to forgive — something that people twice her age often won't do.

She did so much in such a short time. She was just 21. I pictured her going on to coach an entire generation of little Tati Beasleys with the same spunk and humor she always had. That gym is going to be a lot more quiet now.

You left way too young, Tati. I'm gonna miss you.