Kleman-Maeva commits to Nevada volleyball
When she awoke Tuesday morning, Lelani Kleman-Maeva wanted to get the task over with.
"She said, 'Mom, I'm gonna sign it at home, and you fax it,' " Jane Maeva said of her daughter's letter of intent to play volleyball at the University of Nevada. Mom had other plans for Lelani, a standout volleyball player at Aiea.
"I wanted more for her," Maeva said.
When Lelani showed up for practice in the afternoon, the entire Aiea team was seated in a row, just a few feet away from a table. The letter-of-intent forms, along with a pen, were waiting for the powerful 5-foot-11 outside hitter.
Coach Blythe Yamamoto and her staff made sure the setting was appropriate for the affable, but modest senior.
"We wanted to put something special together," Yamamoto said.
Her teammates kept the plan a secret all day long -- not the easiest of missions to carry out on a high school campus. Kleman-Maeva walked into the gym, realized she'd been set up, and instantly yelled at her teammates. There was laughter all around, followed by joy. Tears of joy.
"For me, it's seeing her grow as a person even more than as a volleyball player," Yamamoto said. "She was a young, immature rascal when she came here. School wasn't a priority yet."
Kleman-Maeva is carding a 3.5 grade-point average now. "She's a special kid," the coach said.
She was among a large number of special kids who signed their letters of intent Wednesday. Kleman-Maeva, however, may have had the most radical of routes. She arrived from American Samoa at 7, learning a new way of life.
As an eighth-grader, her energies were directed in the wrong places.
"I got in a fight with another girl. Another time, I threw a book at my teacher," she said of those long-ago incidents. "When I got more into sports, I got more focused on school instead of doing bad stuff."
She's come a long way, so much so that there wasn't a dry eye in the gym as she struggled to sign the letter of intent.
"Everyone here, we're so close. It's more of a family. Every year, some of us leave," Kleman-Maeva said. "It was emotional at our homecoming match, too."
Soon, she'll be on her way to Reno.
"I'm still shocked that I got a full scholarship," she said.
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Here’s a look at other student-athletes who put their commitments in writing
» Kawika Shoji, Iolani. The multi-sport senior signed with Stanford, ending speculation about his many options. UC Irvine, UCLA and USC were among his final four choices.
"The deciding factor was Stanford is an amazing school with a highly competitive MPSF program," said Shoji, perhaps the most acrobatic setter in the state. He has spent quite a bit of time at outside hitter this year for Iolani, which played in the state tournament last night.
"I'll probably play setter (at Stanford), but they'll use me where they want me most," he said. "I'm extremely excited. I'm glad the recruiting is over."
He will play basketball in the winter for the defending state champions.
"The thought of injury has nothing to do with anything," he added.
» Meghan Burton, Iolani. The 6-foot-2 senior signed to play for St. Mary's (Calif.), which is a member of the West Coast Conference.
"It's close enough to home so my parents can come up and watch me play. I want them to be involved in my college career. But it's also far enough where it's new and I'll meet new people," said Burton, who began her prep career at Sacred Hearts. "Change is good."
Utah State and Middle Tennessee State also offered full scholarships.
"After I took my visit with mom, I fell in love with St. Mary's. There's only 3,500 undergrads. It's really small and the community seems really close. Everyone knew everyone, kind of like Hawaii," she said.
» Hennasea-Sue Tokumura, Iolani. The talented point guard signed to play for Utah. Rice, William & Mary, Santa Clara, Weber State, Montana State and Seattle Pacific also offered scholarships to the quick-footed senior.
"Utah was my last visit, so I had all the other visits to compare," she said. "I was really interested in Utah before the visit. I really like the people there. The players were super nice and I really felt comfortable with them."
The anticipation of playing for a renowned coach is a plus.
"I'm excited about being coached by Elaine Elliott. She has an awesome winning reputation. She took the team to nine of the last 10 conference championships," Tokumura said. "She's a nice, genuine person. I feel like she can bring out the best in me as a basketball player."
Tokumura carries a 3.6 GPA. The recruiting process won't take a toll on her any more.
"It was getting a little overwhelming, but at the same time, I had to appreciate it. There are people out there getting less," she said. "Even though I sealed the deal, I don't think I could slack now. But it's a little less stress now."
» Tatriana Lorenzo, Kamehameha. Perhaps the toughest offensive player in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, Lorenzo signed with Gonzaga.
"I've been up there three times. I went this past summer, then my official visit two weeks ago," she said. "I really like the environment, the way the coaches and the teammates and how everyone blends. It's really comfortable. They're all pretty close. They have a good relationship off the court, so it makes it easier."
There were other offers, but Lorenzo had her mind set on Gonzaga a while back.
"By the time they called me, I already decided I wanted to go to Gonzaga. I totally wanted to go there since I was a freshman, when Rachel (Kane) went there," she said, referring to the former player of the year from Punahou.
The slow pace of Spokane, Wash., fits Lorenzo fine.
"Being there on campus was kinda cool. I can focus on schoolwork and basketball. Gonzaga is mellow," said Lorenzo, who plans to major in accounting.
"I just really like work that's straightforward, and I really like math and straight answers," she said.
» Lindsey "Kaui" Tom and Charina Sumner, Kamehameha; Kristen Aona, Punahou
The two Warriors infielders signed with East Carolina. Tom is a shortstop, and Sumner will eventually move from second base to the outfield.
"I think the biggest issue for me is the distance, how far away it is from home," Tom conceded.
"But the coaches are very nice, genuine and honest from the beginning. All the players were super nice and made us feel welcome. That was the icing on the cake. Plus the campus is beautiful and all the facilities are new."
The two play club softball together with Buffanblu second baseman Aona, who also signed with the Pirates yesterday.
"After we visited (East Carolina), we all visited together at Charina's house and discussed it," Tom said. Aona is projected as an outfielder at ECU.
» Markee Nobriga, Kamehameha
The Warriors fullback is committed to New Mexico.
"I visited in September. I'd been there before. The facilities are really nice, and I like the girls on the team. Another girl I know, Kiani Wong, goes there," she said of the Iolani graduate.
The scholarship is a partial, but if Nobriga qualifies for an academic scholarship, she will have the equivalent of a full ride.
Purdue, UNLV and Long Beach State also offered partial scholarships.