The banner year for Kamehameha’s great student-athletes continues with induction of the gentle giant, Koa Kaai.
At 6 feet 4 and 250 pounds, he was the anchor of the Warriors’ football team on the defensive side last fall and earned All-State first-team honors.
He was already attracting attention as a sophomore when he earned the Outstanding Defensive End award at the Just Win Football Camp on Maui in 2009. That fall, the Warriors won the state football championship and he was named to the Honolulu Advertiser’s All-State second team. From there, the accolades piled on.
By his senior year, Kaai was one of the most heavily recruited players in the islands, named ESPN’s No. 1 recruit in Hawaii. The spotlight never seemed to distract him. Neither did the constant double and triple teams. Having former Kamehameha and UH player Houston Ala as his position coach helped.
“He told me the same thing happened to him his senior year because he had a good junior year,” Kaai told Star-Advertiser columnist Dave Reardon.
Kaai, the son of Bill and Pua Kaai, was offered scholarships from 15 Division I universities, choosing Oregon. He turned down Stanford, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Cal, Washington, Oklahoma, USC, Oregon State, Washington State, Texas Tech and Hawaii.
He was one of the state’s top athletes in the discus and shot put for four years, finishing among the top three consistently.
Football coach David Stant said, “Koa is a model student-athlete inspiring those around him by his deeds and not only by his words.”
Track and field coach Harvey McInnery added, “He is industrious, intelligent, dedicated, courageous, humble and compassionate. There is not a better athlete I can think of that deserves to be honored by your organization more than Koa Kaai does.”
Kaai’s 3.6 grade-point average and dedication in the weight room left him with little free time, but he made the most of it. Kaai coaches girls basketball at Manoa, has done community service on Kauai and the Big Island. On Kauai, he has been involved with beach clean-ups and the restoration of a heiau.