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Salesian’s star guard has a big impact

on October 13, 2009

Cal star running back Jahvid Best still casts a giant shadow at Salesian High, his alma mater. But as for shadows, Freddie Tagaloa nearly blots out the sun.

Tagaloa, 15, has received verbal scholarship offers to both Cal and Stanford.

Tagaloa, 15, has received verbal scholarship offers to both Cal and Stanford.

The hulking Tagaloa has played all of five varsity football games for Salesian, but is already the school’s most ballyhooed prospect since Best, who won the state 100-meter dash before heading down Interstate 80 to suit up for the Golden Bears.

When Tagaloa’s name is mentioned, Salesian head football coach Chad Nightingale’s face lights up, the way a farmer’s might when asked about his prize watermelon.

“When February of his senior year rolls around, trust me, that kid’s going to be the most highly recruited kid in the Bay Area,” Nightingale said. “His upside is just phenomenal.”

What Tagaloa lacks in experience, he makes up for in sheer mass. He turned 15 years old just three months ago, but at 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds, he towers over even the tallest of his teammates.

The sophomore, who was 6-feet tall in the fifth grade, is playing both offensive and defensive guard this year for the Pride (4-1). And while his coaches say he still has much to learn about the game, college recruiters have already taken notice. Both Cal and Stanford have verbally offered him scholarships to play for their teams in 2012, and once he reaches his junior year, when he can start receiving formal offers, he figures to get a whole lot more.

“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Tagaloa said of the college coaches that patrol the sidelines at Salesian games. “I’m only a sophomore now, so there’s a lot of time left, and you can never count on that scholarship.”

What makes Tagaloa particularly enticing to colleges, besides his size and athleticism (as a freshman, he played on the school’s state title-winning basketball team, too) are his grades. Tagaloa, whose family is Samoan, said he’s pulling a 3.8 grade-point-average so far, and wants to major in engineering once he settles on a college.

Best, who lives in the same Vallejo neighborhood as Tagaloa, urges the young star to stay focused in school.

“I’m real close with him,” Tagaloa said. “He’s always telling me to stay straight, keep those grades up.”

The Pride next play Friday night at 7 p.m. against Harker in San Jose before hosting St. Elizabeth Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.

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