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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kaveinga to USC

Leuzinger linebacker Uona Kaveinga will attend USC this fall.

By Tony Ciniglio, Staff Writer

He started in Westwood. Then he made a detour to Provo, Utah, before eventually winding up in the Land of Troy.

It has been a strange recruiting journey for Leuzinger linebacker Uona Kaveinga, but as of 8:57 a.m. Wednesday, his tortured mind finally was at peace.

That's when he officially became a USC Trojan.

Kaveinga ended a whirlwind recruiting process by faxing his letter-of-intent to play for USC from Leuzinger High after initially making verbal commitments to both UCLA and Brigham Young.

Then he told the rest of the college football world later Wednesday on Fox Sports Prime Ticket, ending a dizzying ordeal that Kaveinga admitted made his head spin.

Wednesday morning "It was a long, long process. I was tired of talking football," Kaveinga said. "I was ignoring a lot of calls and not returning a lot of text messages. I just wanted to keep to myself and get it over with. "I decided this for myself," Kaveinga said proudly. "It wasn't what my parents really wanted, but it was my own decision.

"It was a hard choice. I had a lot of thinking to do. And everyone had their two cents to give, too."

Kaveinga was the jewel of a South Bay recruiting class that saw 18 high schoolers sign national letters-of-intent - including nine with Pacific-10 Conference schools - and an astounding 23 El Camino College players announced their transfers.

With his parents, Taumoelau and Veronica, his high school coach Deon Toliver, sister Emily, brother Junior and teammate Otis Jones on hand, Kaveinga finally made it official: he was joining the Trojans after months of consternation.

When he made his decision a week ago during a home visit by USC coach Pete Carroll and linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr., Kaveinga said he kept it to himself.

Only the USC coaching staff and his parents knew about it. Even his sister and brother did not know where he was going Wednesday.

"I just wanted to stay close to home and play for the best team in town. They had been coming after me since last February and never really stopped."

Kaveinga had made an early commitment to UCLA about eight months ago, but that came undone when Coach Karl Dorrell was fired by the Bruins.

Kaveinga essentially became a free agent, and he took recruiting trips to Arizona and BYU.

With heavy pressure from his Mormon parents, Kaveinga gave a verbal commitment to BYU during his visit Jan. 11-13. Yet Kaveinga said he wanted to explore USC a bit more, especially since Carroll was making a late surge.

Kaveinga took a recruiting trip to USC Jan. 18-20. He made his decision to attend USC a week ago when Carroll and Norton made one last visit to his house to see if they could get their man.

"It was all up in the air with him," Toliver said. "He doesn't know how to say no. He didn't want to disappoint anybody."

Part of what impressed Kaveinga's parents was Carroll's willingness to let Kavienga fulfill his two-year Mormon mission, which Kaveinga said he would take after his freshman year.

Whatever reservations his father had about him not going to BYU dissolved.

"I support my son's decision 100 percent," Taumoelau Kaveinga said. "I just told him to choose wisely, to make sure he had no regrets."

Like Kaveinga, West Torrance's Brian Baucham wound up signing with USC after a change of heart.

Baucham had verbally committed to Washington State, but quickly did an about-face when his hometown Trojans made a late push.

Baucham sent in his fax in the morning and celebrated with 25 to 30 people at his house.

"It was a good reality check today. Now I'm part of the Trojan team. I'm a Trojan," said Baucham, the 2006 Daily Breeze Player of the Year. "Coach was really excited to get me there. He couldn't wait."

Carroll said that he liked Baucham's on-field explosiveness.

"Brian Baucham is a kid that we saw as just a tremendous offensive player in high school," Carroll said. "Just a phenomenal highlight reel. We knew of him, but he got hurt in his senior year, but we got so excited about his all-around athletic ability, so we're bringing him in to play corner for us."

Jones, Kaveinga's high school teammate, did not endure the same agonizing process as Kaveinga.

Jones made an early commitment to Arizona State and stuck with it despite a late push from UCLA and new coaches Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow. Leuzinger's defense boasted two Pac-10 players.

"UCLA came on in the last two weeks, but Arizona State fit my character more," said Jones, the first one in his family to attend a four-year university. "Their coaches always came to see me and to check out my classes, and when I went on my visit, it was nice. It was far away from home, but not too far.

"Uona certainly had a little more pressure than me."

Kaveinga was rated as a four-star recruit by rivals.com for his hard hitting as well as his strength and work ethic. Carroll had made five visits to Kaveinga.

"Uona Kaveinga is a physical, tough, competitive linebacker," Carroll said. "He plays in the same manner as Lofa Tatupu, physical and all over the field. He'll be a great special teams player, too. I love his attitude and the toughness he brings."

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