The announcement about St. Francis closing its high school (and middle school) doors at the end of the academic year has a far-reaching ripple effect.
Several private schools informed the students of St. Francis about application fees that will be waived, and more. Cal Lee, coach of three-time defending Open Division state football champion Saint Louis, would seem to be a possible option for St. Francis standouts Faaope Laloulu, Bubbah Aina-Chaves and Shepherd Kekahuna, among others including public schools. Tuition cost is a huge factor.
Laloulu, a 6-foot-7, 340-pound left tackle, has scholarship offers from Arizona, BYU, Hawaii, Oregon, San Diego State and USC. Aina-Chaves, an explosive RB/LB, has rushed for 2,935 yards and 32 TDs in two seasons. He has averaged 9.4 yards per carry.
Lee chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday afternoon.
HPW: After talking with Ope and Bubbah, it sounds like nothing is really set for them after this school year.
Lee: I’m sure they’ve got to finish up the school year and it’s hard to talk about where you will be, but it’s something you have to plan.
HPW: Bubbah has mentioned that he prefers to be in an environment with no distractions away from school.
Lee: Once you get off the campus, that’s so important.
HPW: There have been other student-athletes who came to Saint Louis after their schools closed doors.
Lee: It’s too bad that all these players have to break up and go their separate ways after playing together, but sometimes things happen for a reason and good things will happen no matter where they go. These players will help any school they decide to go to after coming of an undefeated season.
HPW: Can you talk about what the process would be like for someone applying at Saint Louis, transferring in from St. Francis? There are a lot of schools that are providing some help at least in the application process.
Lee: The waiving of the application fees is something, but somebody said they were going to get the same cost at another school that they had at St. Francis. If it’s $10,000 and the school was $15,000, that doesn’t make sense.
HPW: The costs of private-school education keep going up. In the old days, back a half-century, some private schools waived tuition for three-sport athletes who worked on campus. Now, nobody gets a break like that.
Lee: I don’t know anything about it. Whatever the tuition is, you’ll pay, and there’s financial aid and need, that’s for everyone. You’ve got to be able to come up with some money, it’s not free. You don’t want to get a kid and his family in a bind. If they can make it happen, fine. I can’t tell a kid to come here and play football, my goodness. It’s more than football. I think ‘Iolani, Punahou, Saint Louis, if you want to come there, you’ve got to pay for it.
HPW: I don’t know how parents do it except by getting a second and third job. Even with a 50-percent discount, that’s still $800, $900 a month for tuition. Or more at the bigger schools.
Lee: Really honestly, I never recruited one kid to come here and get stuck financially. You try and help them like everyone else. If they can, they can. If they cannot, nothing wrong with that. I’d like to go to Stanford, I’d like to, but I can’t afford it.
HPW: I”m hearing that tuition, room and board at USC is now $75,000 per year.
Lee: I don’t know how they do it. I was fortunate, my boy (Jonathan) worked at his school (Oregon) and that helped. He didn’t play, but he got an education and now he’s teaching. Football doesn’t last forever.
HPW: During the past few weeks and months, I’ve gotten to talk with a lot of football players about games and getting recruited. I’ve mentioned to some of them how you toss out big jugs of Muscle Milk to your guys.
Lee: Chocolate is big. They love chocolate.
HPW: There are also a bunch of Crusader football players who also play on the Division I basketball team for Coach Sol Batoon. Have you watched them play?
Lee: Oh yeah. Ben Scott, (Nick) Herbig, Liloa (Kapiko). He just signed with San Diego State. They were just up here. He was kind of waiting around. I told him, don’t wait too long. The other guys playing basketball are Nalu (Liftee), Junior Wily and Jayden (de Laura). And AJ (Bianco). He’s a freshman.
HPW: Who’s the best basketball player among them?
Lee: I like Junior, he’s played a lot of basketball. He played much more than the other guys.
HPW: What does your brother Ron (Lee, offensive coordinator) do in the winter?
Lee: He comes up and looks at film every day. From about 1 o’clock to about 3:30 p.m. He’s here.
HPW: Even now? Would you say he is obsessed or addicted to football?
Lee: He’s addicted and obsessed. I’ve known since we were kids. When I was like 9, he was always the guy watching. He’s older than me, then we played against each other. He was at Saint Louis, I was at Kalani. I followed him up to Willamette. We’ve been there, came back, coached together at Kaiser, Saint Louis, UH and back to Saint Louis.
HPW: Plus the AFL Hawaiian Islanders and Kalani High School. So Coach Ron is there two, three days a week?
Lee: He is here five days a week.
HPW: Is he looking at a variety of video from all kinds of teams, or is it just Saint Louis?
Lee: He’s looking at a variety of things, but it’s all Saint Louis footage.
HPW: Does he watch individual receivers or backs on tape expecting improvement? Does he look for them to apply what they’re being taught at practice? Or is he just looking at schemes and other things.
Lee: That’s what he’s doing. He talks to the kids and tells them what they’ve got to do to get better. He knows what they can do, but do they want to be the same or get better?
HPW: Especially when there are plenty of teams who might outwork the defending state champions this offseason.
Lee: We know what we’ve got to do.
HPW: So what happens if Coach Ron sees certain players not really taking instructions, not getting better at running a certain route, or executing a certain way?
Lee: They won’t be playing, but it’s fortunate that the kids really want to get better. They don’t want to come here and kill time. You can see it in their faces. The bar is real high and the competition is there.
HPW: Do you see some of your guys on the field working out?
Lee: It’s early and we’ve got some time off, and there’s no organized practice, but we have a few kids that are on the field on their own throwing and catching. I’m not going to tell them not to do it. Some young ones and some older ones, not playing any winter sports. They’re in the weight room.