For Paulay Asiata, the grind of college recruiting was as big a task as he faced as an All-State offensive lineman.
In the end, he changed direction, turned down Washington and went with Colorado, signing his letter of intent with the Buffaloes yesterday morning. Asiata will join Saint Louis teammate and defensive end Juda Parker with the Buffaloes, who are undergoing a coaching change.
The catch is two CU assistant coaches, Brian Cabral and Mike Tuiasosopo, have Hawaii ties, and both are known for their ability to land the big ones in the islands. A visit to the school by the two Crusaders had a permanent effect, though Parker committed after the trip. Asiata bided his time, discussing the possibility of changing commitments with family.
Parker, the Star-Advertiser defensive player of the year, is eloquent and passionate, easily able to sell just about anything to anyone — including Asiata, his classmate since sixth grade. The two transferred from Word of Life when the school closed a year ago. So was it a great sell by Parker?
"A little bit," Asiata said. "But me and (Tuiasosopo), we go way back. He was recruiting me when I was a freshman and he was at Arizona."
In all, seven Saint Louis student-athletes signed their letters of intent at the annual Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance signing ceremony at the Sheraton Waikiki. The state champions produced college signees up and down the roster: wide receiver Duke Bukoski (Idaho State), offensive lineman Houston Clemente (New Mexico State), defensive lineman Na’Alii Robins (Oregon State), linebacker Starr Sua-Passi (Idaho State), Parker, Asiata and quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota, the Star-Advertiser offensive player of the year, was an early (summer) commit to Oregon and never wavered since.
"I’m excited. I can’t wait to go," Mariota said.
Even with his solid commitment, Washington was among the schools still trying to phone Mariota up until yesterday. Mariota wouldn’t pick up the phone.
He wasn’t the only local standout to sign with the Ducks, who lost to Auburn in the BCS national championship game. Kamehameha defensive end Koa Ka’ai made good on his recent commitment and signed with the perennial national-title contender. Ka’ai was one of the most widely recruited of Hawaii’s prospects.
"It’s a great relief," he said. "I just got into Stanford a few days ago. They would’ve been my second choice, or Nebraska."
The University of Hawaii scored one of the top linebackers in the state when Farrington’s Justin Vele inked with the Warriors.
"I was nervous at first. My whole body was shaking," Vele said of the signing. "To me, nervous is great."
In addition to the dozens of Oahu athletes, Peni Vea of Kealakehe made the trip over. The safety signed with Utah State, turning down UNLV, Idaho and Hawaii. The latter was a latecomer, and like Robert Siavii did two years ago, Vea went with an early suitor rather than the program he grew up watching.
Six soccer players signed letters as well, including future Rainbow Wahine Ashley Ann Haruki (Hawaii Baptist) and Krystal Pascua (‘Iolani).
"It’s always been my dream to play for the University of Hawaii," Pascua said.
Caprice Dydasco, Kamehameha’s stellar senior, signed with UCLA.
Yesterday was the first day that high school football recruits could make binding scholarship commitments to colleges.
Thirty football players and nine soccer players signed letters at the PIAA event, which started at 6 a.m. yesterday.
STUDENT-ATHLETES WHO SIGNED LETTERS OF INTENT
at Sheraton Waikiki