Taufa earns full ride to play hoops at Indiana University
LAHAINA — Hoops dreams are becoming a reality for Lahainaluna High School graduate Milika Taufa.
After leading the Lahainaluna girls basketball team to four consecutive Maui Interscholastic League championships and a state title this year, Taufa garnered first team all-state honors the last two seasons and MIL Player of the Year recognition in her freshman and sophomore years.
Now Taufa has accepted a full ride athletic scholarship — worth $250,000 — to Indiana University of the Big Ten Conference.
Taufa, a six-foot center for the Lady Lunas who earned Cum Laude academic honors at graduation three weeks ago, will leave for Indiana — arguably the U.S. hotbed of hoops and the home of Larry “Legend” Bird and “Hoosiers” film fame — on June 15.
Taufa thus becomes the fourth student/athlete from the ranks of Lady Lunas’ rosters — Aina Kohler, Fatai Halaapiapi and Kelci Fushikoshi are the others — to move on to college basketball careers.
Todd Rickard, the coach of all of them, couldn’t be more excited about his latest stalwart player’s future.
“Milika is a player that, with the great support of her parents (Afu and Soakai Taufa), learned to put in the extra time, the hard work to be a success at the highest levels. She has been a strong physical presence in the post for us for years, with a nice touch around the basket and the ability to run the floor. She spent the time in the gym to get the footwork down and has been our quiet leader for all of her four years,” he said.
“She has always had a great attitude and been a total team player,” Coach Todd continued. “Milika is a special player that gained the respect of her teammates and opposing players, but still continued to work hard — a tremendous work ethic. Her teammates loved to be around her on and off the court, and she carried the team to the state championship.”
Rickard emphasized that her parents were vital to her success.
“She could hardly play when she came into the program in the sixth grade. But her parents gave her tremendous support to stay with the game. This is the key — the good parenting and no excuses that they bring. That’s the only way that we can help these kids. The parents have to be involved,” Rickard commented.
“That’s why she is the person and player that she is. It is due to all the work she put in and the support she got from her mom and dad. I am confident that she will have success on the next level.”
Milika is a big presence on the basketball court, yet she is a soft-spoken, gentle young lady off of it.
“Yeah, my parents and family are happy and proud for me,” she said last week, as she got ready to leave for Hoosier Land.
“I am grateful to my friends and teammates, and especially my coaches, for helping me get to this point in my life. Most of all, I am thankful to my parents for all the support and guidance they have given me. They always reminded me to be humble and to work hard,” Milika said.
“I am excited to go. I went out for a visit and I really like the town and the people there. I met my future teammates, and I think I will be playing the power forward position. It’s going to be fun, but I’ll miss my family, friends and the beach.”
Best wishes and congratulations, Milika! We’ll be watching you — the pride of Lady Lunas basketball.