He was good when he stepped on campus three years ago.
Josh Taylor just got better and better with each passing day. The 6-foot-8 junior was one vital part of a Punahou machine that dominated Hawaii and the nation. Voters in the Star-Advertiser boys volleyball all-state selections saw plenty of Taylor, who was so dominant from the right side all year despite nagging injuries.
The panel of coaches and media voted Taylor player of the year, nudging out teammate Taylor Crabb in the balloting.
With Taylor’s size and athleticism, Punahou always kept defenses on their heels. Crabb was an able finisher and instinctive setter, while Fab 15 selections Henry Cassiday and Benjamin Lam provided closing power from the left and middle, respectively.
Taylor’s improvement this year allowed coach Rick Tune to leave him on the floor to play in the back row.
"I really challenged him about his off-net defense, to commit to a full game," Tune said. "He also improved at knowing how to hit the bad ball. He’s extremely hard-working. He goes hard at practice and in the weight room. People don’t know how hard he worked."
Taylor had 18 kills (.667) in the state final, a three-set sweep over rival Kamehameha, despite a broken finger on his hitting hand.
"He hits over the point of contact. When he hits the ball, it’s totally different," said Kamehameha junior Micah Christenson, a national-level standout who was third in the Fab 15 voting.
"He can hit the ball from anywhere in the gymnasium," Kamehameha coach Guy Kaniho said.
"The velocity, the spin, the placement. He definitely hits like a college player," said ‘Iolani libero Scott Sakaida, who was voted to the Fab 15 for the second year in a row.
Crabb, with arguably the best jump serve in the state, simply had no weaknesses in his game.
"He’s so consistent at every aspect of the game," Tune said of Crabb, who will play at Long Beach State next season. "He’s really selfless. He’s the equivalent to a great point guard. He might not be scoring 40 every night, but he’s making an impact and settling us down. He really sacrificed his game for the rest of the team."
Kaniho also praised Crabb.
"To me, he was their biggest threat. He was so damned smart, so steady. Almost every time he went back to serve, they almost always got points," he said.
Like Crabb and Christenson, Cassiday is an all-state selection in basketball and volleyball. The 6-3 senior has signed to play at USC.
Tune was voted coach of the year after guiding Punahou to a 23-0 record in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and state tournament. He also took the squad to the Best of the West tourney in Poway, Calif., knocking out some of the nation’s top teams. By the following week, Punahou was No. 1 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50, a status the Buffanblu locked away for the remainder of the year. The top ranking nationally is believed to be a first for a Hawaii program.
"It’s a great honor and I appreciate everyone who’s thinking of me, but my main satisfaction always comes from those four months during the season and our relationships in the offseason. Individual awards don’t add or retract from them," Tune said. "We don’t get there without everyone contributing."
Player of Year: Josh Taylor, Punahou