More than two decades ago, Booker Waugh was a 6-foot-5 forward, familiar on the low post or out on the wings shooting 3-pointers for the UH-Hilo basketball team.
He played for the Vulcans from 1991 to 1995 and earned NAIA second-team honors in his first season during the Bob Wilson era.
Wilson, who coached at UHH for a decade and went to the postseason eight straight years, followed legendary coach Jimmy Yagi but made a bigger impact off the court with the Vulcans Hawaii Basketball School, a summer camp that touched the lives of so many.
In the Curious case of where are they now?, Waugh, 49, is a Los Angeles deputy probation officer, touching one life at a time.
He remembers Wilson well, as someone who made sure his players had their priorities straight.
“He was definitely intense,” Waugh said. “He was on top of us, making sure we were eligible, going to class. Before road trips if we had any assignments, we’d do them on the road.”
Booker was the first name of his grandfather, and his middle name Tabasamu is Swahili for child with a beautiful smile.
Waugh and his wife Joanne, a teacher who grew up on a military base in Okinawa and played hoops and ran track, passed their athletic and academic genes to their three daughters.
Mika, 22, is a UCLA graduate and earned her masters in policy writing at John Hopkins.
The other two, Rylei, 15, and Reigne, 12, have college scholarship potential, Waugh said.
“The youngest has won a lot of awards,” he said. “She’s really good. She’s taller than everybody. She’s 5 feet 6 and wears size 11 shoes. She’s huge.
“She played travel ball and played against Kobe’s daughter. We know the family pretty well.”
Rylei was ranked No. 1 for the top freshmen class of 2023 girls in the L.A. City Section and scored 17 points to lead Westchester High over Cardon 67-38 in the CIF L.A. City Section Division I playoffs.
Waugh is diehard Lakers family and like most living in L.A. mourned the deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in January.
In a weird twist of basketball allegiance, Joanne, a teacher, is a Boston Celtics fan.
Waugh noted that there is no chance of her ever donning a purple and gold Lakers jersey.
“I’m a Lakers fan, Dodgers fan, and 49ers fan. That’s me,” he said. “When they were winning, she’s the Celtics. We argue about the Lakers.”
Though Waugh owes a great deal of debt to his spouse.
“She’s a teacher and the one who sat them down with their school work,” he said. “She was the education supervisor while Daddy went to work. Mommy made sure they would do their school work. I definitely appreciate her for that.”
When Waugh goes to work, most of the people on probation are homeless.
He tries to treat the probationers with compassion and understanding.
“It’s intense. You’re dealing with difficult situations, guiding them through a maze to keep them out of jail,” he said. “You want them to follow the rules so they can stay free.
“I’ve had a lot of good stories. People telling me they’ve never had a P.O. work with them. My approach is to know this person, what makes him tick. Everyone is different. You have to find what makes them tick so their time on probation can be successful.”
He was recently featured on the website theguardian.com about his work as a probation officer. In the article, Waugh runs into a former client, Donald Smith, who confessed that he was high on meth and would call later.
“Just from that, being embarrassed, that might straighten him out,” Waugh said in the story. “This is cool. This is why I do it.”
Waugh last visited Hilo in 2018 for the funeral of Keala Kawa’auahu, of Sudden Rush. He was a former roommate of Waugh’s.
He has yet to bring his family to Hilo to show them all the spots he visited when he was a student. If they go to a gym and there’s a basketball around, don’t be surprised if Waugh keeps draining 3-pointers.
Some things, even 20 years later, never change.