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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Maiava boosts UCLA recruiting

By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer

The UCLA football team can thank Kai Maiava for a larger Hawaiian presence on the offensive line.

Maiava, a sophomore center and 2007 Baldwin graduate, hosted junior college-transfer Eddie Williams, a 2006 Damien graduate from Kalihi, and Stanley Hasiak, a 2009 Kapolei graduate, on their respective recruiting trips to Westwood last year.

"I guess I did a good job," laughed Maiava. "I just told them to do what they thought would be best for them."

Williams and Hasiak have made immediate impacts this fall.

Williams started all six games at right guard, but a broken right ankle suffered in Saturday's loss to California will keep him out at least four weeks. Hasiak, who competed for a starting job during camp, finished the game at right guard.

"They both picked things up really quick,"Maiava said. "I tried to help them with some of the smaller stuff, but they were ready to contribute right away."

Williams' injury is another for the offensive line, which also lost left guard Micah Kia (Mililani alum) to a torn ACL in his right leg in August.

"When that happened, I was really bummed," said Maiava, who started every game this season. "I look up to him because he's the oldest and he would help all of us. When he went down, I knew I would have to step up and be a leader on the line."

The Bruins opened the season with a win over San Diego State and followed that with hard-fought road victory at Tennessee. A 23-9 win over Kansas State at the Rose Bowl gave UCLA a 3-0 start for the first time since 2005, but the Bruins lost the next three games — all against Pac-10 opponents.

"We have to get it back together and get back on that roll we were on in the beginning of the season," Maiava said. "Once we get that first conference win, we'll get some of that confidence back. We're still a team trying to make our mark, which we haven't done in the last three games."

Maiava earned freshman All-America honors at Colorado in 2007. He is the younger brother of former USC and current Cleveland Browns linebacker Kaluka Maiava.

"It was a lot of things (that led to leaving Colorado)," Maiava said. "I wanted to get closer to my family so they can watch me play."

After his freshman year, Maiava said he was asked to move to fullback.

"It had a little to do with that, too. I've played offensive line my whole life and I wasn't trying to become a fullback," said the 6-foot, 313-pound Maiava.

However, with NCAA transfer rules forcing him to sit out last season, Maiava never got the chance to play against his older brother.

"As soon as my brother got offered by USC (out of high school), I knew I wanted to go to UCLA because I always wanted to play against him," Maiava said.

"It gives us a little more to talk about," said Maiava, who recalled watching last year's game from the sidelines. "It was an experience that I had never been through. As soon as you walk in the stadium, you can feel the tension between the teams and the coaches — even the fans. It really opened my eyes to how big the rivalry is."

But the Bruins have much work to do before the season-ending Nov. 28 game against the crosstown Trojans, starting with Saturday's game at Arizona.

"We gotta get this win; it's basically a must-win game for us," Maiava said. "I know our guys are ready though.

Maiava said UCLA is headed in the right direction under second-year head coach Rick Neuheisel.

"Some of the fifth-year seniors have been through three different coaching staffs, so it helps us to have last year under our belts," Maiava said. "Everyone is more comfortable this season. We put the foundation down last year, now we can built upon it and we got a good freshman class this year, so everything is evolving how it should be."

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