It’s not common, not at all, for roughly $1.4 million worth of scholarships (and financial aid) to be in the same room from the same high school on a tiny island.
Among the seven signees at the letter-of-intent ceremony at Kamehameha Schools on Wednesday morning: offensive lineman Lokahi Pauole, the Star-Advertiser All-State performer. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior signed with UCF, joining Mililani standout quarterback Dillon Gabriel.
“Florida’s so far away from home, but it felt like home, especially with Dillon being there. I visited this past weekend. They offered way back, the way recruitment was going I was shying away from them. They picked it up after the early signing day and I just felt the love,” Pauole said.
Also signing at Kamehameha: Kanoa Sawai, Illinois Tech swimming/diving; Jamy Lum, New Hampshire swimming/diving; Emma Kim, LaSalle water polo; Aka Kapono, Navy football; Alfred Horner, Utah swimming/diving; Hoku Arias, Hawaii football.
Pauole considered Air Force, where older brother Nakoa plays football. The lure of UCF, one of the nation’s top programs, was overwhelming.
Pauole becomes the third Hawaii high school graduate and the first from Kamehameha to accept a scholarship to play football for UCF. McKenzie Milton had won 23 straight games as the Knights’ starting QB until his knee injury last fall.
“I plan on playing my freshman year. I talked to the coaches and they see me coming in and ready to block for Dillon because of McKenzie’s injury. They see me playing guard. They like the big, strong guys at guard so they can move people on the run-block,” Pauole said.
In fact, UCF coaches were in town recently and saw Pauole play center for the Warriors’ basketball team.
“I scored 17 points against ‘Iolani, so that’s good. I just happened to have a great game,” he said. “We have a young team. It’s been a rocky season, but all the games pretty much have been close. We have a bond. We stick together and our off-the-court stuff helps us during games.”
Pauole also held offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Hawaii, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah State.
Kapono will be playing for former Hawaii and Radford quarterback Kenny Niumatalolo.
“Aka’s been a guy that’s always worked hard. He’ll get through the initial shock, and if he can weather that storm, he’ll be just fine,” Kamehameha football coach Abu Ma‘afala said. (Former Hawaii wide receiver and assistant coach Billy Ray Stutzmann will be there, too. Coach Niumatalolo is someone I revere very much. Aka’s walking into the perfect environment for him, a strong family environment. ”
Ma‘afala knows the trek well. He was one of the state’s top defensive linemen as a Warrior, then accepted a scholarship from Cal. Dealing with homesickness happens to many student-athletes, and Ma‘afala dealt with it by going right to the weight room.
“Lokahi going all the way out to (UCF), he’s going to experience culture shock. Same thing for Aka. Not only is he going to a different part of the country, but he’s entering the Naval Academy. You’ve got o invest in the whole athletics part. That’s the vehicle that got you there. Surround yourself with great people,” he said.
As a former college assistant coach, Ma‘afala cherishes each group that moves on to the next level.
“I’m excited for all of them,” he said. “They did all the hard work. My job as a high school football coach is not about selling them. They’ve done what they had to do in the classroom. They’ve done what they had to do on the field. This recruiting process can be ugly, so hopefully they’ll listen to me and take some of my guidance, but hat’s off to them. They’ve done all the heavy lifting. Not just them, but their parents, those three boys in particular. The sacrifice and dedication of their parents was apparent when I took this job.”