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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Maiava, Dickson both sign

Maiava, Dickson both sign
By ROBERT COLLIAS, Staff Writer

WAILUKU – For the first time, two Maui Interscholastic League teammates signed national letters of intent on the same day to play football at NCAA Division I-A programs.

It happened Wednesday when Baldwin High School’s Kealakai Maiava and Jojo Dickson signed scholarship agreements with Colorado and Idaho, respectively.

Dickson and Maiava were both starters and MIL All-Stars for the Bears, who advanced to the final four of the state Division I tournament each of the past two seasons.

“Hopefully, it says some good things about the program,’’ Baldwin coach Jimmy Morimoto said. “We try to set the kids up for success. I think everybody tries to do that, but when we run practice, we have a script that we go by. We try to make it as much like a college-type atmosphere as possible.’’

Colorado swooped in with a scholarship offer for Maiava, a 6-foot-1, 290-pound offensive lineman, on Tuesday afternoon after he verbally committed to New Mexico State on Monday evening.

“Yeah, it feels real good to get it done,’’ Maiava said after signing his agreement at Kapolei Hale on Oahu with about 50 other signees from around the state. “It takes away all the stress. Now, I can focus on getting bigger and stronger; you don’t need to worry about where you are going to go in the recruiting process.’’

Maiava was joined on the CU list by 6-7, 300-pound Damien Memorial School standout Sione Tau, who came to the signing party undecided between Colorado and Arizona.

One of the state’s other top prospects, Kaniela Tuipulotu of Kahuku, signed with Arizona. Tuipulotu played for Lahainaluna as a freshman before transferring to Kahuku.

Maiava said that the 48 hours leading to the signing ceremony were “nuts,’’ adding: “That was, like, the fullest experience that college recruiting can be. I was going one way at this time and another way at that time.’’

Colorado coach Dan Hawkins had plenty of praise for Maiava.

“He’s a kid that played center, a kid that played guard,’’ Hawkins said at a news conference covered by the school’s athletic department Web site. “He runs around (well) and he’s one of those guys that can pancake you.’’

Maiava said Dickson was “nothing but smiles. I’m so proud of him. It felt good to have both of us there because it just shows how much talent the island of Maui has, but it just has to be found. We – everybody there – want to start putting Hawaii on the map. It feels super-good.’’

Getting on the map, at least for MIL players, was a process expedited by Kaluka Maiava, Kealakai’s older brother, signing with Southern California two years ago. Last year, eight MIL players signed scholarship offers at varying levels, including Kamehameha offensive lineman Walter Kahaialii, who inked an agreement with Brigham Young.

Dickson, a 6-2, 215-pound linebacker, said he didn’t cement his decision until he took his official visit to the Moscow, Idaho, campus last weekend.

“It was a stressful process; I was debating between Idaho State, a I-AA school, and Idaho, a D-I school,’’ Dickson said. “I was talking to Idaho State first and I didn’t really want to turn them down, but when I took my trip this past weekend I decided. It was a big difference. Idaho is in the Western Athletic Conference and Idaho State is I-AA.

I always wanted to play D-I football, so I think it was a good move for me.’’

Dickson said that going through the process with a teammate helped immensely. Scott Mahoney, Maiava’s father, helped Dickson make contact with the Vandals.

“It was a lot of help – his dad actually helped me get in touch with the coaches because Kai was dealing with them, too,’’ Dickson said. “It made it a lot easier on me. I thought it would be really great to have two Baldwin Bears playing in D-I football from the same team. That was a big thing for me.’’

Dickson said he knew Maiava was worrying about his decision until signing on Wednesday.

“He wouldn’t even speak about it – that is how stressed he was,’’ Dickson said. “I always knew Colorado was breathing down his neck, but he didn’t want to mention any other schools (besides New Mexico State) because I knew he didn’t want to lose that one. I’m sure it was pretty tough for him.’’

Morimoto said that he is still working on placing a pair of players he feels have Division I abilities – placekicker-punter Dane Fernandez and defensive lineman-tight end Levi Aki.

“That is the hope, that maybe sometimes a college’s first choice doesn’t sign and then maybe they will need somebody else,’’ Morimoto said. “That is what those two guys are waiting on right now.’’

Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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