Treven Ma’ae didn’t have much time to say goodbye. Once he got accepted to Bishop Gorman in January 2018, he had to move quickly to be able to make in time for the start of the new semester in Las Vegas.
Ma’ae was a junior at Kapolei before deciding to take a leap of faith in joining one of the nation’s top prep football programs. Ma’ae’s cousin, who also attends Bishop Gorman, encouraged him to move up to Nevada during the 2018 Kingdom Bowl at Kahuku.
“Just a better opportunity for exposure and playing against top talent, and prepare myself for the next level,” Ma’ae said. “He and his dad asked if I wanted to come so I just applied and I got accepted. I just flew up, it happened pretty quickly actually.”
The decision paid off handsomely. Twelve months later, Ma’ae is back on Oahu for the Polynesian Bowl as one of the nation’s top prospects.
While the defensive end had a handful of offers when he left, schools like Oklahoma, California, Boise State, TCU, Southern California, Virginia, Vanderbilt and Washington were among his 20 offers when he signed with Oregon on Dec. 19.
Ma’ae arrived earlier than the rest of the pack as he also competed in the JPS Paradise Classic at Aloha Stadium last Saturday. Though he may have some homework to catch up on when the week is over, he doesn’t mind spending some extra time on Oahu.
“So far, it’s kind of nostalgic. It’s nice to be back home and compete,” he said. “It’s like a mini staycation almost. I’m missing some school right now, but it’s really nice to see familiar faces and family.”
The move was abrupt, and saying goodbye to Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez was difficult, but “he wished me well and said he was proud of me,” Ma’ae said. Ma’ae lived with his cousin for a couple of months before his mother also made the transition to the ninth island.
Ma’ae agreed that he grew in many ways during his time away, and the proof is in the surge of his recruitment since leaving.
“I never expected this, to have my choice of schools. But I’m really happy I decided to sign with Oregon,” he said. “It was a little overwhelming at times, waking up to 100-something messages, text messages. It was a little hard but I’m just very thankful to be in that position. It’s like a good problem to have.”
On the field, Ma’ae was a starter for the Gaels, who won their 10th straight Nevada state title in December. Even though the move was worthwhile for his college prospects, he quickly discovered that there aren’t many places like the islands.
“There’s some local people there but going to school was different. Gotta wear shoes to school and a uniform. At Kapolei, I just wore slippers so that was weird. The people there are different. There’s no other place like Hawaii, where everyone shows aloha.”
Ma’ae wasn’t the only former Hurricane out there, of course. Thompson (Ala.) senior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is also back for the bowl game.
Carlsbad (Calif.) senior Asa Turner was another former Hawaii resident making a homecoming. His older brother, Dakota, was a defensive end for Mililani who went on to play for San Diego State.
“It was pretty much my parents’ decision. I didn’t want to move but they said it was for the better,” Turner told the Star-Advertiser’s Billy Hull. “My brother went to college out there, my sister went to college out there. It’s easier to get recruited on the mainland so they moved me out there. It was really hard but I finally adjusted after about a year.”
The younger Turner moved to California before high school, otherwise he may have also ended up playing for the Trojans with Star-Advertiser Offensive Player of the Year Dillon Gabriel. The two were teammates in basketball during elementary school. Turner was also on a separate all-star team with Tagovailoa in eighth grade.
Polynesian Bowl week affords players the opportunities to do some sightseeing at places like Pearl Harbor, the Polynesian Cultural Center and Waikiki Beach. Although Turner says he would’ve liked some more time at the beach, the timing of the trip proved to be favorable.
“I think it was pretty cool just because if I didn’t have this game, I probably wouldn’t come back until after college because I would be busy,” Turner said. “I have this opportunity and I like it.”