Ewaliko Part of Chow’s First Recruiting Class at UH
By Rodney S. Yap
Keelan Ewaliko’s journey through the Maui Interscholastic League is well documented with football feats of gigantic proportions over his prep career.
His accomplishment on Wednesday, however, transcended all others — elevating to the day’s top news story here on the Valley Isle.
It’s not often a student-athlete from the MIL gets chosen to play for the home team, our University of Hawaii Warriors, directly out of high school.
With the support of family and friends at The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course, the Baldwin High School senior signed his letter of intent to play football for the Warriors and head coach Norm Chow.
Ewaliko turned down a chance to play quarterback at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, to become part of Chow’s first recruiting class and one of seven local prepsters who made their commitments official on National Signing Day.
In addition, Coach Chow called Ewaliko before he signed and then again after he put the ink to the paper, encouraging the MIL’s only three-time offensive player of the year to enroll in the fall with the possibility of playing next season, rather than gray shirt or potentially red shirt his first year.
“He said the first guy he thought of was me. He said, ‘I got to call Keelan, because he’s going to be excited to hear about this.’ I thank God for whatever happens, for this opportunity to play early,” explained the 6-foot, 180-pound quarterback who figures to be a multi-position player in Chow’s offensive scheme or perhaps fill the shoes of the departed Mike Edwards as the team’s return specialist.
Two weeks ago, Chow was pleasantly surprised to see Ewaliko had already put on 20 pounds of muscle since their first meeting last April on Maui at a spring practice held here.
“It’s an honor, a privilege to be offered one of these scholarships,” said the state’s 200-meter track champion last year. “I want to make my name known, make my family proud, and everyone on Maui proud.”
Ewaliko answered questions from the media after signing his agreement, and like the champion fans of MIL football and track and field have come to know, he patiently posed for photos with family members and friends. More than 30 people filled the clubhouse conference room, just miles from the Baldwin campus where teammates were in class.
Chow’s second call to Ewaliko went much like the first, “He said it’s up to me, weather I want to gray shirt or not, but he feels like I’m ready. He told me to take my time and think about it before making a decision.”
Chow and his coaching staff secured commitments from 20 high school and junior college prospects Wednesday.
Ironically, Baldwin held a press conference in 2005 when linebacker Kaluka Maiava signed his letter of intent to play at the University of Southern California. Maiava decided on USC over UCLA because of Chow, the Trojans’ offensive coordinator at the time.
Also headlining the Hawaii high school prospects are three members of the two-time state champion Kahuku – running back Aofaga Wily, offensive lineman John Wa’a, and linebacker Rashaan Falemalu. Wily is a three-time all-state pick who is the state’s second leading rusher all-time while Wa’a anchored the offensive line of the state’s two-time state championship team. In addition, the Warriors inked Aiea defensive lineman Ualesi Sale.
“We felt we met some of our needs with this recruiting class and we’re extremely pleased with the local recruits who signed with us,” Chow said. “We were able to secure the state’s top offensive and defensive linemen according to our evaluations. We looked to improve our wide receiver corps and linebackers, but really we were out to get the best athletes. Linemen will always be one of our top priorities each year and we felt we did a really good job with that.”
Among Hawaii’s recruiting class are 17 prep standouts and three junior college transfers. The class features seven players from Hawaii, four each from California and Utah, two from Florida, and one each from Louisiana, New Jersey, and American Samoa. The position breakdown is four linebackers, four wide receivers, three defensive linemen, three defensive backs, two offensive linemen, two running backs, and two quarterbacks.
Of the Mountain West schools, UH signed two of the three listed in the ESPN 300 top national recruits – quarterback Aaron Zwahlen (No. 155) and defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii (No. 187). Zwahlen, of Downey High in Modesto, Calif., is listed as the 11th-best quarterback prospect in the country while Tulimasealii, of Wai’anae High on O’ahu, was the state’s No. 2 prospect and started in the prestigious Under Armour All-America game.
“We need to temper our enthusiasm and reserve judgment on this class until 2-3 years from now,” Chow said. “That’s when these players should be making an impact on your program. We’re especially pleased with the commitment these young men made to want to become Warriors. Last year’s and this year’s class coupled with the next few classes and we should really have ingredients of a strong program.”
Two signees are brothers of current or former Warriors. Offensive lineman Matthew Koloamatangi, of Woodside High, is the younger brother of current Warrior offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi while Rashaan Falemalu is the younger brother of recent Warrior defensive lineman Paipai Falemalu.
UH also signed a pair of JUCO transfers who are expected to make immediate impacts – defensive back Tigi Hill, a Kahuku High graduate who signed with UH in 2011 and spent the past two years at Mesa Community College and linebacker Darzil Washington, who initally signed with Texas A&M out of high school, and comes to UH by way of Eastern Arizona College.
The Warriors vastly improved its running back position with the addition of Wily and Diocemy St. Juste, of Santaluces High in Florida. St. Juste is a speedy back who rushed for 1,243 yards, including six touchdown runs of 50 yards or more.
Four wide receivers signed with UH – Ammon Barker of Alt High in Utah picked the Warriors over UCLA; Marcus Kemp of Layton High in Utah was one of the top recruits in the state; Terrance Polk of Los Medanos JC in California, ranked second in the state in touchdowns and sixth in receiving yards, and Keith Kirkwood of Neptune High in New Jersey is a two-sport star who received several Division I basketball offers.
The Warriors signed defensive backs Trayvon Henderson of Grant High in Sacramento, Calif., and Barry Higdon of Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Florida. Henderson was a two-way player at Grant who received numerous postseason honors while Higdon picked UH over Cincinnati.
Over fifty student athletes and their parents gathered for the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance national letter of intent ceremony held at the Sheraton Waikiki. The early morning event, held annually by PIAA Director Doris Sullivan, was broadcast live on ScoringLive.
Kamehameha Maui offensive lineman Dylan Nakoa was the only other MIL football player to sign a NLI. Nakoa attended the PIAA ceremonies with his parents, signing to play at Notre Dame of Ohio.
Noah M. Chang, Punahou – Pitzer
Logan Hanohano, Punahou – San Diego
Kyle Obana, Punahou – Brown
Ryan Tuiasoa, Punahou – Weber State
Ualesi Sale, Aiea – Hawaii
Kennedy Tulimasealii, Waianae – Hawaii
John Wa’a, Kahuku – Hawaii
Jeremiah Taleni, Kailua – Pitt
Dakota Turner, Mililani – SDSU
Kamalei Correa, Saint Louis – Boise
Joey Anglemire, Mililani – Nevada
Dylan Nakoa, Kamehameha-Maui – Notre Dame of Ohio
Manaia Perese, Mililani – Weber State
Zen Ikea Ikehara, Kamehameha – Weber State
Kai Gonda, Kaiser – Weber State
Ekolu Ramos III, Mililani – Minnesota NC
Michael Atuaia, Mililani – Minnesota NC
Jaryn Villegas, Leilehua – St. Francis
Mitchell Boyd, Farrington – St. Francis
Michael Boyd, Farrington – St. Francis
Wesley Nagaseu, Waipahu – St. Francis
Jeremy Tabyo, St Louis – Texas A&M
Reeve Koehler, St Louis – Arkansas
Colton Goeas, St Louis – Kansas
Isaac Savaiinaea, Punahou – UCLA
Titus Failauga, Mid Pacific – Oregon State
Vincent Smith, Waipahu – Campbellsville
Solomon Leaeno, Campbell – St Francis
Justin Tago-Su’e, Campbell – UMNC
Drew McDurmin, Aiea, Minnesota NC
Kirk Ronolo Jr., Kailua, CC of San Fran
Preston K. Derige, Mililani – Allen CC
Jazlyn M. McCoy, Waianae – Allen CC
David Lam, Aiea – Allen CC
Shaney Sakamoto, Mililani – Saint Louis
Shyani K. A. Terukina, Kamehameha – Utah State
Summer Burnett, Kamehameha – Georgia
Daisy “Kama” Pascua, Iolani – Hawaii
Madison Reed, Mililani – Hawaii
Tierra “TJ” Reyno, Mililani – Hawaii
Storm Kenui, Moanalua – Hawaii
Isabelle Delgado, Moanalua – UNLV
Pearlena Kahele-Manners, Moanalua – HPU
Taylor Kipilii, Iolani – USNA
Kealakekua Makekau, Sacred Hearts – Western Oregon
Taylor Higa, Mid Pacific – Western Oregon
Kouri Nago, St Louis – UC Riverisde
Jensen Toner, Punahou – USC
Dempsey Lynn Banks, Punahou – Cornell
Jahna Kay Tacson, Waipahu – Southern Utah
Alyssa-Marie Almogela, Waipahu – Jackson State
TRACK AND FIELD
Elli Brady, Punahou – Notre Dame