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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Wildcats will strike with 3 starters from Hawai'i

By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer

Joe Siofele is "playing for my brother . . . and I'm playing through him."

Arizona linebacker Joe Siofele, shown making the tackle, will dedicate the season to his brother John, who died in a car-bus collision July 15. Both graduated from St. Louis School.

Photo courtesy of UA Media Relations

Makoa Freitas says he "hopefully will play well enough that I will have a chance at the professional level."

Keoki Fraser wants to make All-Pac 10 and "come back and coach Kailua to a state championship."

Different motivation. Different goals. Same team.

Linebacker Siofele (St. Louis '99, of Waipahu), left guard Freitas (Kamehameha '98, of Manoa) and center Fraser (Kailua '00, of Waimanalo) will all start for the University of Arizona's football team.

No NCAA Division I team except the University of Hawai'i has as many starters from Hawai'i.

Part of last season there were five — all recruited by Dick Tomey before he left Arizona — but offensive lineman Steven Grace (Kamehameha '97) has moved on to the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and Fraser's older brother, Keoni (Kailua '98), is finishing up his degree.

Siofele is playing through the grief of his brother John's death in a car-bus collision July 15 on Farrington Highway. John was going to play defensive line at UH, and they had worked out together in Tucson this summer.

"Football keeps my mind off things," Siofele told Kristin Davis of the Arizona Daily Star. "Being in camp around the guys has helped a lot. They try to make me laugh and have been real supportive."

"I feel like I'm playing for two guys," Siofele told Davis. "When I get out there, I'll be giving 200 percent. I'm going out there playing for my brother and me, and I'm playing through him."

Defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff, who was an assistant at Hawai'i for three years under Tomey, says, "... Joe is very caring and very close to his family. His faith and his character are getting him through."

Siofele plays "whip" linebacker, a position that calls for him to be part defensive end, part linebacker, part pass rusher and part pass defender in man-to-man coverage. "His job description is pretty lengthy," Mac Duff says.

"He is very smart, very instinctive," Mac Duff said. "He sees, diagnoses and reacts."

Siofele missed five starts last year because of surgery on his wrist and hand. "I thought he would be the next really great linebacker" until the injury, head coach John Mackovic said.

"This is my junior year and that's usually when the guys are being (evaluated by NFL scouts)," Siofele told reporter Davis. "I feel like I'm ready to go, and I'm anxious to get out there."

Arizona line coach Charlie Dickey says Freitas, "in my opinion, is not only our best, but one of the best offensive linemen in the Pac 10. He's very, very smart, has great feet, and is very strong."

Freitas, a three-year starter, set an Arizona football team record with a bench press of 510 pounds. He did 38 repetitions of 225 pounds one day after practice.

He says he weighs 295, 10 pounds lighter than his roster weight and his body fat is 15 percent (he's 6 feet 4). "More muscle, less fat," he said.

Freitas had been the Wildcats' left tackle because he was their best pass blocker, but Dickey moved him to left guard "to solidify our inside."

He needs just three units to graduate in December (psychology) and his only class this fall is an independent study (no classes) of ocean geography and climate. He is doing this in landlocked Arizona.

Fraser, a sophomore, was moved from starting right guard to center for the last four games in 2001. "I had never played center before," he said. "It was a difficult transition, but they knew I was an intelligent player. The center makes all the offensive line (blocking) calls."

Fraser, who wants everyone to know he is from Waimanalo, is also proud of his weight. "I lost a lot of baby fat since high school," he said. "I weighed 320 as a freshman, but over here they focus more on being lean. I'm a solid 300 now (he's 6 feet 2) and my body fat is down to 16 percent from 24 percent."

"Keoki really cares about the game; he plays with a lot of emotion," coach Dickey said. Added coach Mac Duff, "We love the players from Hawai'i."

Freitas' older brother, Makai, also played at Arizona. They all were recruited by Duane Akina during Tomey's tenure as head coach of the Wildcats. Makai Freitas, who finished high school in Michigan, now is offensive line coach at Kamehameha.