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Big Talent to Big Blue

The Tolentino's from left to right - Grant, Sage, Shayla & Becky

Basketball has taken 7-foot-tall Sage Tolentino to several unique destinations around the world. China and Tahiti to name a few, but come this winter the Hawaiian native will be gearing up for the Hamilton Big Blue.

Tolentino is coming off winning back-to-back state championships for Maryknoll High School in Honolulu. He began to gain notoriety due to his height and play on the islands, which caught the eye of Kai Sotto.

Kai Sotto, a 7-foot-2 center from the Philippines, joined East West Private management company. A group who specializes in helping parents manage the process of PR, advisory, ect. Sotto recently signed to play in the NBA’s G-League– creating a blueprint. Considering Kai “embraces” big brother role to Sage, it seemed to be a fit to follow suit.

“Patty (Scott) was trying to get in touch with us since last January,” said Tolentino’s father, Grant, of their connection to East West Private. “They contacted us and expressed their interest in helping Sage.”

As COVID-19 struck, and Hawaii was shut down, the family plans started to finalize.

“Hawaii is 100 percent shut down … people are flocking out of there because there is no season” Grant Tolentino expressed in frustration. “I want readers to understand where our family is coming from.”

The Tolentino’s flew out to Atlanta, Georgia in early July to begin his training on the mainland. The original plan was to stay for a few weeks then to begin playing for the Skills Factory in Atlanta, a junior NBA team.

Very quickly it became clear that the original plan wasn’t the best fit for Sage, and his roots have been planted in Cincinnati since July. 

Tolentino has received interest/offers from Kansas, Auburn, and Kentucky

“He came up here and he just fell in love,” said Grant Tolentino. “The vibe up here is more laid back. The vibe here is similar to Hawaii living. Everyone is more caring up here.”

Sage began training at Griffin Elite in northern Kentucky. But recently has moved his training closer, with Coach Dante Harlan of Ignition. He trains daily with East West Private hoopers, Jayden Harper, Cholo Anoneuvo and EJ Kapihe on the campus of Prasco. 

COVID-19 has given Tolentino the unique opportunity to train everyday while going to school remotely. But the six-hour time difference between Ohio and Hawaii proved too much of a hurdle for his online classes, which he was doing through his former school in Honolulu, Maryknoll. 

“He was having a hard time with the training on top of school,” said Sage’s mother, Becky. “He was doing training in the morning, then he had to jump on school from 2 o’clock all the way to 9 o’clock at night… That was very difficult for him. We knew this wasn’t working out, so we inquired about Hamilton. That’s how the whole thing started.” 

Both of Sage’s parents acknowledge that COVID might have been a blessing in disguise because of unique opportunities that have presented themselves, such as remote learning. 

With Sage enrolling at Hamilton, he will be allowed to play for Kevin Higgin’s Big Blue squad come winter, and something he very much looks forward to.

One thing he has learned already is that the competition on the mainland is a bit stronger than on the islands. 

“Back in Hawaii I thought everyone was good,” said Tolentino. “But here, the guys are just better.”

Since coming to Ohio in August, Sage’s daily routine has changed drastically– but he says it for the better.

“Playing basketball 24/7, I love it,” he said. “Eat, sleep and play basketball. It’s what I love to do, and I’m thankful for this opportunity.”

Tolentino has started acclimating himself to the basketball team through Hamilton’s open gyms which are just starting. Sage is apart of a growing landscape of transfers headed to Southwest Ohio.

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