Damien O-lineman Tau ultimately picks Colorado
Some isle recruits get away, but UH gets its share
There were lots of smiles, cameras galore and even a surprise or two at the letter-of-intent press conference held yesterday at Kapolei Hale.
The annual event, hosted by Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance, drew more than three dozen athletes.
Among them were Damien offensive lineman Sione Tau. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound senior was still undecided through recent days, stuck between Arizona and Colorado.
"The last two weeks were the worst two weeks, everything going in and out of my head," said Tau, who was still unsure
as his family made the 30-minute drive from town to Kapolei at sunrise.
"I finally decided when I walked through the door (of Kapolei Hale). I was thinking about which school my parents would feel more comfortable with me being at," Tau said.
Despite his previous oral commitment to Arizona, it was no surprise that he signed with Colorado.
"I wanted to play against the best," he said of the Big 12 Conference school. Colorado was his original pursuer, but when the Buffaloes issued an early deadline, he balked. Eventually, he gave an early commitment to Arizona.
The Wildcats called at 7 a.m., when student-athletes can officially sign their letters, and learned that Tau signed with CU. The 'Cats were stumped, but such is life in the world of football recruiting.
Arizona did corral Pac-Five quarterback Bryson Beirne (6-2, 230).
Among other notable signees at Kapolei Hale:
» Sam Fehoko, DE, Farrington to Texas Tech
» Aaron Santiago, SB, Kapolei to Navy
» Josh Andrews, LB, Mililani to Navy
» Brett Kan, QB, Punahou to Princeton
» Michael Matamua, OL, Kapolei to San Diego State
» Savai'i Eselu, TE, Moanalua to Cal
» Matthew Masifilo, OL, Campbell to Stanford
» Thor Salanoa, DE, Radford to Utah
» David Paaluhi, LB-DE, Waianae to Oregon State
» Brandon Hardin, CB, Kamehameha to Oregon State
» Castro Masaniai, DL, Waipahu to Oregon State
» Kealakai Maiava, OL, Baldwin to Colorado
» Jojo Dickson, LB, Baldwin to Idaho
» Kaneakua Friel, TE, Kamehameha to BYU
» Marc Moody, SS, Saint Louis to Mississippi Valley State
» Alex Tupulua, OL, Waianae to Weber State
» Kahaku Ka'ai, QB, Kamehameha to Lambuth
» Matthew Tamashiro, FB, Pac-Five to Lambuth
» Devan Essner, RB, Saint Louis to Lambuth
» Matthew Kaaihui, WR, Kamehameha to Colby College
» Micah Waiamau, DL, Kamehameha to University of Charleston
Red Raiders send off eight:
Kahuku, which sent 10 players to college football programs last year, is sending eight more.
Besides offensive lineman John Manu-Olevao, who signed with Hawaii, top signees are highly coveted defensive linemen Nai Fotu and Kaniela Tuipulotu.
At yesterday's press conference in Kahuku High School's Walker Gymnasium, Fotu signed with the school he preferred all along, Utah. Tuipulotu had considered Utah, and though USC entered the picture recently, he signed with Arizona.
Linebacker Sifa Heimuli and defensive tackle Malone Fiso signed with Weber State, while All-State first-team safety Gary Nagy signed with BYU. Linebacker George Tafuna inked his letter to New Mexico State, and quarterback/defensive back Richard Torres signed with Western Oregon.
Fotu and Tuipulotu, both All-State first-team selections, spent some time trying to persuade each other.
"I tried to make him see the light," said Tuipulotu, a 6-foot-1, 291-pound senior. Fotu visited Arizona recently, but his heart was set on the Utes.
For Nagy, a tall (6-2) defensive back, playing time is also a factor. He could be as high as second on the depth chart next season.
"Someone told me we play Arizona in the first game and Utah in the last game," he said, relishing the chance to face his former Red Raider teammates.
Three sign at Kalaepohaku:
Three Saint Louis Crusaders signed their letters. Defensive ends Solomona Aigamaua (6-3, 205) and Scott Smith (6-7, 245), both All-State first-team defensive ends, signed with Cal. Ana Tuiasosopo (5-10, 304), an All-State first-team offensive lineman, signed with New Mexico State.
For the first time in school history, two Baldwin players have signed with Division I programs. Kai Maiava, who went from zero offers to a handful in the past month, accepted a last-minute offer from Colorado.
The senior offensive lineman also considered New Mexico State.
Teammate Joseph "Jojo" Dickson, a 6-2, 200-pound linebacker, accepted an offer from Idaho. It was Dickson who had virtually no interest from D-I schools until Maiava's father, Scott Mahoney, passed along a highlight DVD to the Vandals coaching staff. That's when Dickson caught their attention.
He visited the chilly campus in Moscow, undeterred and excited.
"It's so different from Hawaii. That's what I liked about it, and it's the WAC," said Dickson, who had been planning to attend College of the Desert, a JC in Palm Springs, Calif.
Beavers score again:
Oregon State not only secured letters from All-State first-team cornerback Brandon Hardin (Kamehameha), but welcomed Aiea wide receiver Lofa Liilii, Waipahu defensive lineman Castro Masaniai (6-3, 245) and Farrington defensive lineman Tonu Tuimalealiifano (6-1, 235).
That adds to the plethora of island talent that is stocking OSU's roster.
"He can go as far as he wants," Aiea coach Wendell Say said of Liilii, who was hampered by an ankle injury last fall.
Arizona Western, a junior college that offers scholarships, collected eight local players, including five from Farrington.
Among them are Waianae running back Joe Abell and offensive lineman Travis Nua. They're expecting to room together in the school's dorms.
"I can cook," Nua insisted. "I cook eggs, rice, uh ... "
Abell claims to be an expert on making fried chicken, which will come in handy for the group.
One of the Waianae players who won't be in Yuma, Ariz., is Alex Tupulua. The offensive lineman signed a letter to play for Weber State, where former Baldwin coach Chad Kauhaahaa has created a productive pipeline back to the islands.
Aldrich to Huskies:
Kamehameha-Hawaii defensive end Kalani Aldrich signed his letter of intent to the University of Washington yesterday.
Bunch of Warriors sign: Jordan Inafuku didn't need to display a letter of intent to inform anyone about his future plans.
The All-State first-team volleyball player wore his red-and-gray Stanford sweater in casual comfort.
"I got this as a birthday present from Kawika," he said of former Iolani standout Kawika Shoji, who will be a teammate of Inafuku's next season. The versatile Warrior was one of 15 who turned out on Tuesday afternoon for Kamehameha's press conference.
Among the others: Hoku Nohara, softball, to Hawaii-Hilo; Kealohilani Kea, volleyball, to Pepperdine; Alexis Robins, volleyball, to Portland; Logan Keala, volleyball, to Rutgers.
Softball standout Hoku Nohara had no complaints, either.
"This is a lot (of athletes) compared to last year," said Nohara. "We've been taking a lot of pictures. My mouth is kind of sore."
Kamehameha's state champion girls volleyball team had its share of signees. Portland stuck by Robins despite an ACL injury. She's looking forward to life after high school.
"I heard college is the best," she said, noting that she's been cleared to start playing again next month.
"It's weird not being able to come back next year," Kea said.
Their coach, Chris Blake, smiled in the background.
"I'm proud of them, watching them grow from where they were to now. They've done a lot for Kamehameha volleyball," he said.