College hoops: Berinobis, UHH’s heart and soul, is no superhero, just a super hard worker

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo's Randan Berinobis will drive to the basket one last time Saturday night against Hawaii Pacific at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

At this point, it’d be reasonable to wonder if Randan Berinobis is some form of superhero.

How else to explain Berinobis being able to suit up for each UH-Hilo men’s basketball game this season?

During a trying campaign in which his teammates have dropped like flies — be it injury, illness or grade issues — Berinobis is the last man standing.

It’s not because of his body.

“I’m torn and tired,” he said Friday, sticking out his ankle and pointing out that he drew a charge earlier in the season causing an opponent to land on it. “Ever since then, the bone has been popping out.”

“Last night I had a dunk,” Berinobis said, “and I really needed one, because I didn’t have one the whole year, because I’ve been injured.

“Honestly, this has been the most unhealthiest I’ve been all year, but I still battle.”

It’s because of his heart.

“No one can measure that,” he said. “Especially my senior year, I’m not going to miss a game, I going to do whatever it takes to help my teammates.

“There was no key to being healthy. I was unhealthy, and I fought through it. It was my mentality.”

Berinobis will close a chapter and complete a circle Saturday night at Afook-Chinen Auditorium next to the couple — Randy and Nani Berinobis of Pahoa — that inspired him to go where few Big Island basketball players have gone.

The Vulcans will honor five other seniors before their season finales against Hawaii Pacific: Safia Sheikh and Kailani Jones on the women’s side along with three Berinobis’ teammates, Ryley Callaghan, Trey Ingram and Arnold Silva.

But Berinobis, a 6-foot-3 forward, is the BIIF success story of the group. He chose to play basketball at Hilo High to live out the dream of his father, a former Oahu Interscholastic Association standout at Castle, and if he ever feels like not giving it his all, he thinks of his mother, who recently beat breast cancer.

“When they introduce me, and I’m holding my parents hand and when we walk out, it’s going to mean the world to me,” he said. “It’s going to be emotional for sure.

“I learned to be a hard-worker and fighter from them. I lived out my dad’s dream, but it became my dream as well.”

In the past two decades, the list of BIIF players who went on to contribute with the Vulcans is a limited one. Berinobis joins Kyle Bartholomew (Waiakea, 1999) and his “big brother,” Aukai Wong (2005, Hilo), a Vulcans assistant.

Berinobis helped the Vikings bag a BIIF Division I title in 2010, their last, he earned conference Player of the Year as a senior in 2011, and then he took the long and scenic route.

He sat out a season and then gray-shirted at Santa Rosa Junior College (Calif.) before transferring to UH-Hilo and redshirting for coach GE Coleman, who told him plainly: I can’t give you a scholarship. You have to earn everything.

He was quick to do so, breaking out in a game on Thanksgiving Day 2014, and quickly earning Coleman’s praise as a hard-worker.

“His work ethic is second to none,” Coleman said before this season. “He plays as hard as anybody. He has a great fire and passion.”

Berinobis relied more on grits and guile his first seasons as a Vul. His staples were rebounding, defense and energy — he holds the PacWest single-game record for rebounds with 24 as a junior — but as attrition struck the Vulcans (7-19, 6-13 PacWest) this season, he’s turned into more of a showman.

His penultimate performance of 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists Thursday night in a resounding 94-86 victory against Chaminade to help stop a six-game losing streak, using primarily seven players, will be hard to top.

“That was as gutty a performance as this team has ever had,” Coleman said in a release. “Those guys played 39 minutes (Ryley) and 36 minutes (Randan) respectively. They gave all their effort in front of their families.”

It was the second time this season Berinobis almost recorded a triple-double, lifting his season averages to 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.

“When we got to the locker room, I didn’t even know,” Berinobis said. “As long as we get the ‘W,” that’s what I’m all about.”

Still, he’ll shoot for an encore performance Saturday night against the Sharks.

Maybe a 40-point game, he joked.

Or that elusive triple-double.

Or a 25-rebound game.

In the end, a win and a rewarding moment with his parents will do.

Despite a lost season, the Vulcans are a sneaky-good 6-2 at home.

“There is something about Hilo,” he said. “We can have 200 people in the stands and it feels like 2,000. The fans and support at UHH are something I’m going to miss.”

Berinobis earned a kinesiology degree last year and he’s on track for another in management this spring.

If he earns a pro basketball contract overseas, great. If not, he’ll go work hard in another field.

In 10 years or so, he may try coaching.

As a parting shot, he had a message for kids.

“Never give up on your dreams, especially being local and being from Hilo,” he said. “People think players on Honolulu have more talent, but I’m not so sure. Always strive for greatness and never settle for less than what you deserve.”