finally drawing interest
The story of John Fonoti is one of pain, perseverance and momentum.
The Farrington defensive end suffered a broken left fibula early last season, knocking him out of the Governors' league schedule. His injury, plus the fact that he isn't NCAA Division I qualified, left him off the radar of many recruiters.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior returned in time for the playoffs and HUB Goodwill Classic, where his speed impressed a lot of watchers. He also went to the Samoa Bowl, joining a team of Hawaii players that battled a Samoan all-star squad. Fonoti was named Defensive Player of the Game.
"That was a lot of fun. It was really hot," Fonoti said.
In the meantime, San Jose State and UNLV began calling. SJSU's connection is through former Hawaii coach Dick Tomey and new assistant Joe Seumalo, a former UH lineman from Kalihi. SJSU and UNLV are willing to bring Fonoti in as a Prop. 48 candidate. That means he'll sit out one year before becoming eligible to play.
Utah and Hawaii would like Fonoti, as well. Those two schools don't use Prop. 48 and would likely have Fonoti play at a junior college for two seasons.
The turnaround in interest is welcome, says Farrington coach Randall Okimoto, who has raved about Fonoti for a long time.
"He's been working hard. He just has to study hard," said Okimoto, who believes Fonoti could also play outside linebacker.
Fonoti hasn't heard from SJSU more than twice, but is aware of Tomey's defensive values. SJSU struggled last season in the Western Athletic Conference.
"It doesn't matter," Fonoti said. "Every year changes."
Utah and UNLV have been the most persistent recruiters.
"They're always calling me," he said.
Sitting out a year as a Prop. 48 candidate or playing JC ball makes no difference to Fonoti. Before drawing interest from the D-I schools, he was exploring Snow, Dixie and Allan Hancock as possible junior colleges. Now, his January weekends will be spent on Division I campuses.
Fonoti visits Hawaii next weekend, and UNLV on Jan. 28.
This weekend, at least five local prospects are visiting college campuses. Farrington offensive lineman Shawn Sisifo Lauvao, Kapolei offensive lineman Ikaika Aken-Moleta, and wide receiver Spencer Hafoka and safety Al Afalava of Kahuku are visiting BYU.
Kamehameha wide receiver Waika Spencer is visiting Idaho. He will likely convert to tight end in college.
Last weekend was productive for Mililani offensive lineman Aaron Kia. As the Star-Bulletin reported Wednesday, Kia committed to Hawaii after visiting Oregon and learning that the Ducks have expended their scholarships for O-linemen.
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim of Hawaii Prep, recruited hard by Hawaii, was at Oregon last weekend. The 6-3, 235-pound two-way standout has a former teammate, Max Unger, there in Eugene.
"He came back from UH thinking that's where he's going," Hawaii Prep coach Tom Goodspeed said. "Then he came back from Oregon and it was the same thing."
Te'o-Nesheim has a good problem that could get more complicated. Washington is on the itinerary next week, and Colorado might be added.
The agile lineman isn't necessarily set at O-line, which is where Oregon wants him to play.
"Daniel wound up loving offensive line because of Bern (Brostek)," Goodspeed said of HPA's O-line coach Brostek, a former NFL player. "I think (Mike) Cavanaugh is similar. I know what he does. He really, really cares about his players, and that's rare on the college level."
It doesn't quite end there. Among the other schools that want Te'o-Nesheim's attention is San Jose State. Former HPA assistant coach Ken Margerum, the former Stanford and Chicago Bears receiver, is the new offensive coordinator under Tomey.
Here's an update on some of the state's top prospects:
Aken-Moleta, a 6-foot-2, 315-pounder, already has a scholarship offer from San Diego State. He has one visit remaining, at Washington Jan. 28.
The silence around Kailua's Kainoa LaCount is almost deafening. The 6-7, 305-pound tackle is currently playing basketball for the Surfriders. He has not made a visit to any college.
Lauvao, a 6-3, 310-pound tackle, will go to BYU next weekend for his final visit. Utah has pushed for him to drop one of his visits and take a look at the Ute campus, but he has been unwilling to break his promises to schools that recruited him earlier.
He enjoyed his visits to Cal and Arizona State. As of this week, Lauvao's preference is Arizona State.
Weber State has shown interest in Castle lineman Travis Pa'aga (6-2, 263).
McKinley offensive lineman Raphael Ieru is visiting Arizona State this weekend. Ieru, who hopes to major in graphic arts, moved his visit up a week earlier to avoid a conflict with next week's SAT. He is 40 points away from becoming a Division I qualifier.
Stanford, Arizona and Hawaii have also shown serious interest in the 6-4, 315-pound senior. Ieru is tentatively scheduled to visit Hawaii later this month.
Star-Bulletin first-team selection Stanley Malamala has not qualified for Division I status yet. The 6-3 220-pounder will take the SAT next weekend.
Spencer, a 6-4 220-pounder, suffered an ACL injury late in the football season. He visited San Diego State last weekend. The Aztecs had already offered a scholarship before the visit.
SDSU has also been interested in Spencer's teammate, Kamuela Kapanui, a 6-foot 200-pounder. Kapanui could switch from tight end to H-back if the Aztecs pursue him.
A number of the state's top pass catchers are on the bubble. Isaac Laupola of Campbell and Jon Santos of Mililani are not qualifiers yet. Both will take the SAT next weekend.
Laupola has captivated recruiters because of his 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash. He was timed with a top speed of 4.3 last summer. The 5-11 190-pounder also starred as a defensive back and returner. He was a Star-Bulletin All-State first-team pick at safety.
Santos, a strong 6-0, 180-pound receiver, was a tremendous yards-after-catch performer. He has sent video to College of the Redwoods, Pasadena Community College and Orange Coast CC.
Saint Louis receivers Shaun Kauleinamoku and Shawn Perry have been asked to walk on at Hawaii. Perry is also drawing interest from Western Montana, where Tommy Lee is head coach.
Kahuku's Micah Strickland visited Oregon last weekend.
Saint Louis' Kevin Sullivan, a 5-8, 180-pound senior, has an offer from Air Force.
The top rusher in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, Damien Torres of Kailua, will likely attend Orange Coast CC or College of the Canyons. Both are in California.
Saint Louis senior Stan Nihipali suffered a shoulder injury midway through his season, but has recovered adequately since. He threw the ball with authority during the HUB Goodwill Classic practices, and was named East Offensive Player of the Game.
Hawaii has asked Nihipali to walk on, meaning he'll get a chance to show his skills this spring. "I'm pretty excited," the 5-11, 175-pounder said. Saint Louis operates a run-and-shoot offense, similar to the one at Hawaii.
Tyson Alualu of Saint Louis left Arizona broken-hearted this week when he canceled his visit. Alualu has visited Oregon State and Cal, but has not made a decision.
"He was gung-ho about going on all five visits, but I think it's starting to wear him down," Saint Louis coach Delbert Tengan said.
Cal had an outstanding season and rewarded coach Jeff Tedford with a contract extension. The school is also planning to upgrade facilities, a decision that certainly helps the Bears' recruiting process.
Alualu, a 6-2 270-pounder, drew interest from a large list of schools, including Tennessee, Oregon, BYU, Colorado, Washington and Hawaii. He turned down an offer to visit Oregon, and is still slated to visit BYU on Jan. 28.
Hawaii, with former Saint Louis coach Cal Lee in house, is clearly in the picture. Alualu visits the Manoa campus next weekend. Defensive line is a point of emphasis for the Warriors.
Mika Kane, like Alualu, was a Star-Bulletin first-team member. The 6-3, 285-pounder has visited Cal, San Diego State and Oregon State. He has not heard from Michigan State since last month, but prefers to stay on the West Coast anyway.
Aiea's Malo Taumua needs 20 more points on his SAT to become a Division I qualifier. He could also qualify by raising his cumulative grade-point average, which is 2.9. Colorado and Utah have been interested in the 6-2, 295-pounder.
Taumua began turning heads during the Hula Bowl clinic on Maui early this year.
Former Mililani player Jake Ingram drew interest from Boise State last week, but he had already begun the process of enrolling at Hawaii for the spring semester. Idaho was also seriously interested, but no scholarship offer was involved just yet for the 6-3, 225-pounder.
Ingram, a 2004 graduate, gained 35 pounds since the fall of '03. UH strength coach Mel deLaura has seen Ingram work out several times, which led the Warriors to invite him for a walk-on tryout.
Leilehua's B.J. Fruean is on the bubble. Although Hawaii is among the schools interested in the 6-2, 185-pound senior, much hinges on his SAT scores. He currently plays forward on the Mules basketball team.
R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane of Aiea is visiting Hawaii this weekend. The 6-1, 210-pound senior was an All-Oahu Interscholastic Association Red West first-team pick.
Tulane and Idaho have shown interest, as well. Kiesel-Kauhane had a GPA of 3.4, but Tulane is waiting on his SAT score. He needs 20 more points to qualify.
"Tulane is one of the top educational institutions, but I would love to stay home and play in front of my family," said Kiesel-Kauhane, who may major in nursing or mechanical engineering.
Punahou's Tysan Pa'aga is now a D-I qualifier, which opens the door for more prospective schools. Pa'aga, who will retake the test next weekend, is among several student-athletes taking an SAT prep class this weekend.
Castle's Blaze Soares is visiting BYU this weekend and will visit Hawaii next week. He has a 2.8 GPA and is retaking the SAT, also next weekend. He needs to improve his SAT score and/or GPA to become a qualifier. The 6-1, 210-pound senior has scholarship offers from Hawaii and BYU. The Star-Bulletin All-State first-team selection is leaning heavily toward Hawaii.
Michael Holt, a Star-Bulletin All-State first-team pick, hasn't received any offers yet. He may walk on at Nevada or UNLV. Or he may follow the trail blazed by former teammate Caleb Spencer, who went to a junior college for one year before transferring to Nevada.
Like Holt, teammate Travis Uale is a first-team pick. Uale is planning to send video out this week to Hawaii, BYU, Utah and possibly San Jose State. "I'm sort of leaning toward going to school in Utah because my sister (Andria) is living there," Uale said.
Maybe there's excessive exuberance on the part of Oregon State fans and media. Or, perhaps they just got the wrong information. Either way, Al Afalava isn't committed to the Beavers. Period.
The Kahuku defensive back returned from his visit to Corvallis with a positive experience. He is visiting BYU this weekend, followed by Washington next week. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior was a Star-Bulletin All-State first-team safety.
GEMS IN THE ROUGH
Mililani's Nick Rogers only played five games, but the wide receiver opened plenty of eyes. His best game may have been against Lahainaluna in the state tournament, when he caught two touchdown passes against a secondary that had kept passing juggernaut Baldwin in check twice during the regular season.
At 6-2, 170 with good hands and athleticism, he is hoping to walk on at Hawaii. Rogers, who plays forward on the Trojan basketball team, is already a Division I qualifier.
GOING, GOING ...
San Diego State landed Punahou lineman Trask Iosefa on Dec. 21. O-line coach Ed White will convert the 6-1, 305-pound offensive tackle to center. ... Kamehameha center Tyler Williams ended his recruiting odyssey by committing to Utah last weekend ... Rocky Savaiigaea, a 6-2, 295-pound defensive tackle from Aiea, committed to Hawaii on Dec. 22. ... Brashton Satele made a courtesy visit to Oregon State last weekend, though he is a strong commit to Hawaii. The 6-2, 240-pound linebacker committed to Hawaii on Dec. 5, but the Oregon State staff was so impressed with the Pac-Five/Word of Life senior that they asked him to visit anyway. ... Baldwin linebacker Kaluka Maiava, the Star-Bulletin Defensive Player of the Year, committed to USC last summer.
To nominate ...
To nominate an athlete of the week, contact the Star-Bulletin Sports Department by 11 p.m. Sunday: