By Paul Honda
The outgoing crop of football talent at Kahuku isn’t large this season, but there’s plenty of quality.
Hauoli Jamora and Jackson Kaka made good on their initial commitments this morning. Jamora, the Star-Bulletin defensive player of the year, followed through and signed with Washington.
Kaka inked his pact with New Mexico State.
Meanwhile, Kona Schwenke finalized his agreement with Notre Dame, the late pursuer that put a twist into the recruiting puzzle.
Schwenke originally committed to BYU, but other offers came in late in the season. Many offers. The 6-foot-4 senior was a target of Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, West Virginia and Wyoming in addition to BYU and Notre Dame. Other schools, including Hawaii, were interested, but backed off after he committed early (summer) to the Cougars.
When Schwenke decided to visit Arizona, and then Notre Dame, BYU unhinged the relationship.
“They told me if I went to Notre Dame, they’d pull it. That’s the thing that got me. I thought maybe I shouldn’t visit Notre Dame,” he said. “The (BYU) coaches said maybe I can’t abide by (school) rules.”
The visit to the Midwest was a turning point.
“I was surprised at how small the student body is, only 6,000 students. Their academics, they have a lot of help for students to get their degree. They graduate 97 percent of their students,” he said.
Schwenke has filled out some and now weighs 232 pounds, up from 220. He forsook basketball and hit the weight room.
It was 14 degrees in South Bend, Ind., while he was there. And windy.
“Snow. You see snowflakes on the window,” he said.
Adjusting to football at the BCS level will be interesting. The Fighting Irish have a new coach in Mike Kelly, formerly of Cincinnati, and will switch from a 4-3 (under Charley Weis) to a 3-4.
“I might play outside linebacker,” Schwenke said.
Former Punahou standout Manti Te’o started for the Irish as a freshman last fall.
“I saw Manti rarely,” Schwenke said.
Jamora, at 6-3 and 235 pounds during the fall, figures to be a fixture for UW at defensive end. The Huskies employ a 4-3 defense.
Jamora now weighs 243 pounds and has been sidelined by a wrist injury suffered during the Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs. The cast on his right wrist — purple — will remain on for another two months.
He had offers from BYU, Hawaii, Oregon State and Wyoming. Boise State offered a grayshirt.
“It was pretty chill. I made my decision after I visited U-Dub,” Jamora said.
UCLA, he added, called and spoke with an uncle “a couple of days ago.”
The possibility of facing his former teammate, Schwenke, makes both youngsters smile.
“I’ll be on special teams looking for him,” Jamora promised.
Kaka, a tight end, also had an offer from Wyoming. He and Leilehua quarterback Andrew Manley are NMSU’s island recruits this year.
“I visited (NMSU) with Andrew. It was good fun. It’s a desert, dry dead mountains,” said Kaka, who has seen mountains all his life.
He grew up in New Zealand before moving to Hawaii four years ago with his family. The Aggies coaching staff made him feel comfortable.
“The head coach and the assistant coaches are great. That’s why I like the program,” he said.
Kaka was diligent about the process.
“I was stressing out. I had to send my scholarship (paperwork) at 7 in the morning,” he said.
Back in New Zealand, Kaka was familiar with the national sport, rugby.
“Football, you have the techniques to learn. You have to play smart in the game,” said Kaka, who also plays basketball for Kahuku. “In rugby, you don’t have to remember 100 plays.”