(Here’s an extended report on Wednesday’s letter-of-intent signing ceremony hosted by PIAA at the Sheraton Waikiki. The first version was published in this morning’s Star-Advertiser. See Tuesday’s short story and photo gallery on Prep World here.)
Larry Tuileta broke some bleeding green hearts, but otherwise the University of Hawaii netted a nice senior class on Wednesday morning during the PIAA Letter-of-Intent signing ceremony at the Sheraton Waikiki.
Tuileta had orally committed to play football and volleyball for UH last summer. A change in staff at USC, which brought former assistant coach Steve Sarkisian back from Washington, led to a phone call. Tuileta visited the USC campus recently, and by signing day, he officially changed his mind by penning his signature for the Trojans.
“It came down to deciding between two great programs. I discussed it with my parents. It took a very long time. I was up late until this morning, constantly thinking about the decision,” he said. “There’s been a lot of changes (at USC), so he (Sarkisian) gave me an opportunity to get onto the team. He gave me a spot. It’s a chance that I’m going to take.”
There was no interest under previous USC head coach Lane Kiffin.
Tuileta talked with Hawaii coach Norm Chow before making his decision.
“I told him there’s another option,” he said.
UH still landed most of its top prospects. Wide receivers Devan Stubblefield (Saint Louis) and Donald Lambert (Moanalua), tight end Dakota Torres (Punahou), defensive end Ka‘aumoana Gifford (Kamehameha), linebacker Dayton Furuta (Mililani), safety Manly “Pumba” Williams (Farrington) and lineman Tavita Eli (Kealakehe) all gave their signatures to Manoa.
Stubblefield could help immediately. He was an All-State pass catcher who was a deep threat as well as a crisp route runner. His early commitment to UH stood strong, but he was definitely pursued.
“Other guys tried to get in the door, teams from the Pac-12 and Big 12 as well. But I took my visit this past weekend and that opened my eyes. It’s family, it’s God, God spoke to me. That was one of my main decisions, and Coach Chow allowed (me) to play football and baseball,” Stubblefield said. .
He conceded that baseball could offer other options should he have a strong senior season and get drafted. Then he’d possibly play college football and pro baseball. But one thing for sure is that he won’t be catching perfectly thrown spirals from Tuileta.
“Larry’s going to be family no matter what. He was committed to Hawaii first and we accept him. It’s no different now. Wherever he goes, it’s going to be good for him. I was getting excited to play with him, but it is what it is,” Stubblefield said.
Furuta wore his white hat with a bold ‘H’ logo proudly.
“The biggest thing for me was to represent my home state, play in front of friends and family. Just make my community proud. I had a couple of chances to go away, but I wanted to stay home,” he said.
Gifford expects to play the “3 technique” in Hawaii’s defense. He played defensive end and tight end for Kamehameha.
“It’ll make it easier knowing some of my friends are going there. Coach Chow was my first offer and I committed, so I wanted to be a man of my word,” he said. “We picked up a lot of kids from the mainland. We’ll for sure contend next year.”
Williams, who will graduate cum laude, will be an interesting weapon for the UH defensive coaches. He is a natural safety, but played some linebacker for the Governors. He’s also a dangerous punt blocker.
“I feel good. I’m very thankful,” he said. “I’m set with UH. It’s just the beginning. The coaching staff there treated me like family, like a son. Staying home and playing for my family and friends, I always wanted that. Having that support is big.”
Lambert was a huge weapon for Moanalua, often drawing double coverage to open up the field for teammates. He has fully recovered from a wrist injury suffered during the HUB Goodwill Senior Bowl.
“I’m excited. I got to play with a lot of these guys at the Senior Bowl,” Lambert said, adding that he supports Tuileta.
“God has a plan for him,” he said.
While Tuileta opted for a “preferred walk-on” opportunity at USC in football while playing volleyball, Nevada (2), Washington State (2), Colorado and Oregon State (2) reeled in some island talent. Safety Jacob Lacaden (Saint Louis) and defensive tackle Kalei Meyer (Kamehameha) signed with Nevada. Defensive ends Kingston Fernandez (Kapolei) and Hercules Mata‘afa (Lahainaluna) are heading to Washington State.
“It came down to Washington State and Oregon State,” Mata‘afa said, who said that former Kaimuki standout Chester Sua was his host. “I played against him my freshman year.”
Mata‘afa has maintained 235 pounds on a 6-3 frame. He’s in the weight room often, but doesn’t plan to add any weight.
“I believe (Washington State) they switch off, three-man, four-man (front). I believe they might put me as outside linebacker or D-end as a stunt. I don’t really want to play D-tackle,” he said.
Kaiser linebacker/running back Fitou Fisiiahi, who signed with Oregon State, was relieved.
“It felt like all my hard work paid off. Never had a second thought. When I visited the campus, it felt like home,” Fisiiahi said.
Nevada and Washington State called after he committed last summer, he said.
Colorado landed cornerback Jaisen Sanchez (Saint Louis). Defensive end Kalani Vakamelalo (Kapolei) inked his letter to Oregon State. Other Division I, or FBS, level signees included Campbell offensive lineman Adam Amosa (Navy), Kamehameha defensive end Calen Holt (Army), Kapolei offensive lineman Micah Kapoi (Wisconsin), Saint Louis offensive lineman Louis Vailopa (Eastern Illinois) and Damien offensive lineman James Roy (Idaho).
“They have excellent academics and they’ll pay me while I’m in school,” Holt said of his future career at West Point.
Punahou defensive end Ruairi Brady was stoked about signing with Harvard.
“I just got really lucky that I got in,” Brady said. “I think I’ll fit in. They run a 3-4 and they play a lot of D-linemen.”
Kamehameha athlete Chad Souza found it pretty easy to choose Western Oregon.
“My sister and my girlfriend go to school there,” he said.
Tiny Azusa Pacific, a Christian college in California, lassoed three local football players: defensive linemen Jonah Wataru (‘Iolani) and Maake Muti (Leilehua), and offensive lineman Sakalaia Hungalu Jr. (McKinley).
Farrington’s 6-foot-5, 290-pound, football/basketball standout, Mason Semisi, will play for Virginia Union.
“Homesick. And the weather. It’s been cold,” he said of his concerns.
Eighteen of the signees at the PIAA ceremony were soccer players.
“I thought that waking up early, I’d be tired, but I’m not. I’m pretty excited,” said ‘Iolani senior K.J. Ahlo. “It’s going to be a new change. It’s going to be sad leaving this place, but I’m looking forward to going to the mainland.”
In all, four ‘Iolani soccer athletes signed letters. The others were Joshua Adachi (U. of Pacific), Emily Tanaka (Pepperdine) and Nycole Mitsuyasu (Nevada).
“I go there every spring break to snowboard and have fun. I’ve never actually visited campus yet,” Mitsuyasu said. “I know two other people who go to school there and they helped my decision.”
Adachi will be part of a start-up.
“The campus is renovated and they’re restarting the program for the first time in 15 years,” Adachi said of UOP’s soccer program. “The coach coached me on the region (West Coast) team.”
He had opportunities to play at Santa Clara, Cal Poly, Brown and Villanova.
“In terms of money, UOP’s the best and I felt a little better when I went up,” Adachi said.
Tanaka enjoyed the beach proximity of Pepperdine.
“I loved it. It’s a beautiful campus and everybody’s nice,” she said.
Pearl City cross country runner Maile Shigemasa signed to run for Creighton.
“I’ve never been there. I know they’re in a rebuilding stage with a new coach,” she said. “I’m pretty excited, being on my own and with new people. Racing in snow.”
There were four Chargers at the event. softball player Roblynn Kami signed with Midland, Tex. Two of her classmates, Donnell Lefotu (Mayville State) and Kierren McGhee (Sterling College), signed football letters.
“I don’t know much. I was going through my e-mail and I had it for a couple of weeks,” Lefotu said. “One day, I decided to open it. I called them up and they said to send over my scores for my SAT and my transcript. I opened up last week Thursday, and on Friday, he sent over the letter.”
Mayville State plays in the NAIA.
“I’m going to be the third guy from Hawaii. It was crazy. They’re in North Dakota and I’m here in sunny Hawaii. Up there, there’s snow. It’s cold. I’m not used to it, but I’ll make do with what I’ve got.”
LETTERS OF INTENT ARE SIGNED
ATHLETE SCHOOL COLLEGE
Adam Amosa Campbell Navy
Ruairi Brady Punahou Harvard
Tavita Eli Kealakehe Hawaii
Kingston Fernandez Kapolei Washington State
Dayton Furuta Mililani Hawaii
Dallas Garringer-Kaapuni Nanakuli Briar Cliff
Kaaumoana Gifford Kamehameha Hawaii
Calen Holt Kamehameha Army
Sakalaia Hungalu Jr. McKinley Azusa Pacific
Tristen Kamaka Leilehua Midland (Neb.)
Micah Kapoi Kapolei Wisconsin
Jacob Lacaden Saint Louis Nevada
Donald Lambert Moanalua Hawaii
Donnel Lefotu Pearl City Mayville (N.D.) State
Cody Lui-Yuen Radford Alabama A&M
Hercules Mata‘afa Lahainaluna Washington State
Kierren McGhee Pearl City Sterling College
Kaleipuakea Meyer Kamehameha Nevada
Luke Morris Punahou Georgetown
Maake Muti Leilehua Azusa Pacific
Jaisen Sanchez Saint Louis Colorado
Mason Semisi Farrington Virginia Union
Devan Stubblefield Saint Louis Hawaii
Dakota Torres Punahou Hawaii
Larry Tuileta Punahou USC
Louis Vailopa Saint Louis Eastern Illinois
Kalani Vakameilalo Kapolei Oregon State
Jonah Wataru ‘Iolani Azusa Pacific
Manly Williams Farrington Hawaii
James Roy Damien College of Idaho
ATHLETE SCHOOL COLLEGE
Joshua Adachi ‘Iolani Pacific
KJ Ahlo ‘Iolani San Francisco
Catharine Brady Punahou Fairfield
Taylor Cabbab Campbell Hawaii Pacific
Sarah Davis Kamehameha Utah Valley
Henry Engle Punahou Pitzer
Sonest Furtado Waianae Hawaii
Kiani Haluska Kamehameha Hawaii
Hannah Kaina Kamehameha Hawaii Pacific
Nycole Mitsuyasu ‘Iolani Nevada
Kayla Mizo Kamehameha Idaho State
Sage Parker-Lee Sacred Hearts Loyola Marymount
Tasi Reid La Pietra CSU-Pueblo
Joshua Rosenberg Kamehameha Dominican
Bo Samson Sacred Hearts Northeastern
Dani Stollar Punahou Harvard
Janelle Stone Kamehameha Colorado State
Emily Tanaka ‘Iolani Pepperdine
ATHLETE SCHOOL COLLEGE
Roblynn Kami Pearl City Midland (Texas)
ATHLETE SCHOOL COLLEGE
Maile Shigemasa Pearl City Creighton