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Influx of recruiters in Hawaii makes Warriors a tougher sell

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 2:11 a.m. HST, Jan 25, 2011

Is there a LeBron James in the University of Hawaii's future?

Not the slam-dunking original, of course, but a symbolic local high school football version not only willing to play for the Warriors but to take the lead on helping to keep some blue-chip buddies here, too. Sort of like what James did in assisting in the stockpiling of talent by the Miami Heat.

We bring this up because a week from tomorrow is national letter of intent day, the first day that high school recruits may make binding commitments to colleges. And barring some 11th-hour changes, UH will get little in the way of the top-ranked, in-state prospects this year.

Perhaps just two of the top 10 on the Star-Advertiser's list unless it can prevail upon Saint Louis School's all-state defensive end, Juda Parker, or somebody else to stay home.

Parker is also being pursued by Colorado and Oregon State, two past and future UH opponents.

Being overshadowed in its own backyard has happened to UH on signing day before. But the divide has been getting wider. And that should be a concern as UH attempts to raise its level for the coming of Mountain West Conference membership and whatever the succeeding rounds of musical conferences might bring.

Last year, for example, UH got just three of the top 15 and none in the top 10. It got some good players, just not enough of them to fill the shopping list.

In UH's defense, there were Who's Who lists of schools in Hawaii bumping into each other the past two years. One Pac-10 coach with extensive recruiting experience here declared Hawaii, "overfished."

But few went home disappointed.

And players that once might have been overlooked and walked on at UH are now getting offers from Idaho, New Mexico State, Utah State or Wyoming.

But this year with some promising prospects, but only a fraction of the quantity of the past two seasons, the competition has thinned out noticeably. UCLA, USC and Notre Dame, for example, were hardly heard from. Others, such as Washington, which grabbed five last year, have been much more selective.

Still, UH has been hard pressed to bag its limit and has gone increasingly to the mainland to fill its shopping list. Some by design, some by force. This after a 10-4 season.

That is noteworthy because it doesn't figure to get any easier in the near future. Such as next year, when recruiters forecast the state will once again be a teeming marketplace of talent. Never have there been more recruiters with local ties returning to take advantage, either.

Norm Chow, who has recruited Hawaii for 40 years, became the offensive coordinator at Utah this week and is sure to be in the mix next season with the Pac-10 to sell. Likewise Robert Anae and Duane Akina, two former UH coaches well experienced in recruiting here, are now at Arizona.

Colorado's move to the Pac-10 has given Hawaii-born Brian Cabral more to sell and the Buffaloes could be one of the big winners here this year.

Perhaps never before has selling UH to local prospects shaped up as a bigger battle. Or UH needed more help in closing the deal.

Reach Ferd Lewis at

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