Friday, February 9, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 9, 2001

UH recruits come from far and near

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Perhaps more impressive than the University of Hawaii football team’s recruiting yield this year was its reach.

From sea to shining sea, American Samoa to the East Coast, the Warriors went far and wide in pursuit of football standouts.

"Only time will tell, I guess," UH assistant coach Rich Miano said, "but right now, I believe, this is a great class."

With the arrival of El Camino College (Torrance, Calif.) cornerback Jean Elise’s faxed copy of his letter of intent, the Warriors signed all but one prospect who verbally committed. The loss of El Camino defensive tackle Matt Tupuola, who signed with Cincinnati, was overshadowed by the signing of 18 players.

In addition, defensive end Hiram Travis of El Camino College, offensive lineman Mike Holt of Grand Rapids (Mich.) College and Donny Faaliliu of Los Angeles Harbor College signed scholar-ship agreements last month and are enrolled at UH this semester.

Among the top recruits are Isaak Sopoaga, who was named a junior college All-American after amassing 31 sacks as a College of the Canyons sophomore; Centennial High (Corona, Calif.) Mike Bass, who was named ESPN’s most valuable player in Southern California after rushing for 2,875 yards and 41 touchdowns last year, and St. Louis School running back Pesefea Fiaseu Jr., The Advertiser’s all-state Offensive Player of the Year.

This recruiting class was a culmination of months of scouting and years of friendships. Miano had tried to recruit Sopoaga while he was attending a high school in American Samoa two years ago. Sopoaga, who did not meet the requirements necessary to play as an NCAA freshman, went to the College of the Canyons in California, where he remained on the UH radar screen. Although Sopoaga received dozens of offers - he visited Nebraska last weekend - he stunned recruiting analysts by choosing UH.

"It worked out for the best," Miano said.

The father of Virginia high school wide receiver Nate Ilaoa contacted UH coaches several months ago, saying the family was moving to the Islands. Ilaoa, who was named the Washington Post’s Metro-area Player of the Year, ended up turning down an offer from Virginia Tech to sign with the Warriors.

UH defensive line coach Vantz Singletary, who used to live in Houston, signed two Texas standouts; offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh recruited Bass, Holt and Lamar Broadway; quarterback coach Dan Morrison signed wide receiver Omar Bennett, who scored on seven kick returns in high school; wide receiver coach Ron Lee signed the four local players, and associate head coach George Lumpkin re-opened the pipeline with El Camino College.

El Camino coach John Featherstone, who was close to former UH head coaches Dick Tomey and Bob Wagner, had not sent a player to UH in several years. But with the help of El Camino assistant coach Vincent Sides, a former UH player and close friend of Miano and Lumpkin, the Warriors were able to land two players from one of the top junior college programs in California.

College of the Canyons and El Camino College are expected to serve as feeder programs in the future.

Now, the Warriors will work on recovering from last year’s 3-9 record. UH coach June Jones said his staff will evaluate the players starting Monday in preparation for spring practice, which begins March 1.

In an Advertiser chat room discussion Wednesday, it was announced that defensive back Tyson Hampton has decided to transfer to a junior college. Backup quarterback Mike Harrison left school at the end of the fall semester.

Meanwhile, defensive end Joe Correia will move to strong-side linebacker and right end Chris Brown will be tried at middle linebacker.

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