There are multiple threads of commonality that tie Reydan “Tita” Ahuna and Benny Agbayani together beyond being part of Hawaii Pacific’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.
The two homegrown star athletes — Ahuna at Kamehameha and Agbayani at Saint Louis — share a humility that overshadows their athletic success. Both also have continued to pay it forward with new careers in education, Ahuna with her online alternative school and Agbayani as a teacher assistant for history and special education at Mililani High.
“After my playing career ended, I wanted to try to do something with kids,” said Agbayani, an All-American for the Sea Warriors who played in a World Series with the New York Mets. “I’m very appreciative for all that was given to me and all the support I had from HPU.
“I was pretty shocked about being selected and happy. You play the game because you love it, not for awards.”
Ahuna feels the same way. The captain of Hawaii’s last national championship volleyball team in 1987, Ahuna went on to coach the Sea Warriors for 11 years, winning two NCAA D-II titles (1998 and 2000).
“It’s hard to accept any kind of award when it’s a team sport,” Ahuna said. “You need a lot of people’s help to be successful. I’m accepting this for everyone who has helped me, coached me and contributed to our success over the years.”
Ahuna, a former special education teacher, opened Elite Element Academy several years ago to address the needs of nontraditional students. The online school allows the flexibility for families “whose lives are not conducive to the traditional 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule,” she said. “Technology can bridge a lot of gaps, particularly when home-schooling is not an option.”
Ahuna also has continued to coach volleyball at the club level. TAVA (Tita Ahuna Volleyball Academy) has added under-12 through under-18 boys teams this year to its established girls program.
Agbayani, HPU’s only baseball All-American, also is coaching. He has three children under age 11 and “I thought I was retired, but I’m still at the field,” he said. “The kids keep me busy and I hardly watch baseball. I don’t miss the big leagues, I played (professionally) for 17 years and that was enough.
“What I’m happy about is I’m the one who took the uniform off, no one had to do it for me.”
Agbayani still holds HPU records for single-season home runs (10) and career steals (83).
Joining Ahuna and Agbayani in the 2011 class are:
>> Jurgen Malbeck, the 1997 NAIA player of the year in basketball and a two-time first-team All-American.
>> Susie Schoales, a firstteam All-American in softball who is HPU’s career leader in ERA (0.93), appearances as a pitcher, innings pitched and complete games.
>> Llewellyn Smalley, a two-time All-American in basketball and the school’s career scoring leader (1,808 points) and co-leader in games, field goals and 3pointers.
The five will be inducted Saturday in conjunction with the S.H.A.R.X. benefit dinner at the Koolau Ballroom.
“We are so excited about this event and the establishment of our Hall of Fame,” said Darren Vorderbruegge, HPU athletic director and men’s basketball coach. “HPU has been fortunate to have tremendous athletic success the past 33 years.”