Exposure priceless for many
• Photo gallery: All Poly football camp
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Even at 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, Kapa'a High School senior Sean Shigematsu could have easily gone unnoticed by college football recruiters.
Playing on a 1-6-1 team in a three-team league on the state's fourth-most populated island, Shigematsu might have been at risk of falling through the cracks as big-name programs cherry-picked prospects from higher-profile schools.
But after emerging as one of the top offensive tackles during this week's nationally renowned All Poly Camp at Kapi'olani Park, Shigematsu is a stranger to no one.
"A guy like that probably would have had to wait until his (game) film came out (in the fall) for anyone to see him," said camp founder/organizer Alema Te'o. "But after this, I'm sure he'll walk out of here with his name on at least six or seven recruiting boards."
That is why Shigematsu and about a dozen of his Kapa'a teammates, plus many other Neighbor Island players, made the hop over to O'ahu for the All Poly Camp, which was held in Hawai'i for the first time after eight highly successful years in Utah.
While top recruits like Kahuku linebacker VJ Fehoko and Leilehua quarterback Andrew Manley are household names and have already received strong NCAA Division I interest after two years of prime time media exposure, kids from smaller programs — especially from the Neighbor Islands — viewed the All Poly Camp as a rare opportunity to share the spotlight.
Kealakehe and Konawaena each was represented by about five players, and kids from Kaua'i High, Waiakea and Kamehameha's Hawai'i and Maui campuses also made their presence known.
"It's wide open, and we wanted to see what the competition from the other islands is like," said Shigematsu, who like most of his Kapa'a teammates was attending an O'ahu camp for the first time. "I'm thankful I got to see what I could do against guys from other teams. We brought offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers ... I thought we did pretty good."
Shigematsu said the college coaches at the camp taught him to "be explosive, to get after it," and also stressed the importance of academics.
He said he has received some early interest from the University of Hawai'i, Portland State, Wyoming and Utah State.
"I just want to get a scholarship, anywhere, to be honest," Shigematsu said. "I just want to get a free education."
Kapa'a offensive line coach Dean Petro, who accompanied the group to Honolulu, said if Shigematsu receives the kind of scholarship offers he expects, others could follow for his younger teammates.
"This is a great group — after our spring game, we gave them three weeks off to rest, but the next week they asked me if I could come back and coach them during the break," Petro said. "Hopefully this (All Poly Camp) gave them some exposure, because I think all of them have a chance to play in college. If (Shigematsu) gets that one shot, that one break, then it might open the door for the rest of them."
Te'o said that is one of the purposes of the camp, and a big reason why it has expanded from just eight college coaches and about 40 players eight years ago to 300-plus participants and coaches representing more than 20 colleges today.
"The kids from the smaller programs, that's who this benefits the most," Te'o said. "Everybody knows about the Manleys and the Fehokos, but for the kids on the bubble, on the other islands, this gives them a chance to show what they can do against the big dogs on O'ahu."
In addition to Shigematsu, others from smaller-profile programs who received post-camp awards from their respective position coaches included Honoka'a running back Chris Reed, Word of Life offensive tackle Paulay Asiata, Pac-Five linebacker Valentine Kanehailua, Kaiser running back Jarrin Inagaki, Moanalua tight end Richard Villasenor and Radford cornerback Ikaika Kamaka.
Players like Kamehameha-Hawai'i guard Keli'i Kekuewa and 'Aiea defensive tackle Lawrence Lagafuimaono have appeared on recruiting lists before, but their increased exposure at the All Poly Camp may result in more offers coming their way.
"Here they can actually go up against the big names, even if they don't get to play against the big teams during their season," said Mario Fatafehi, a Farrington graduate who played five seasons in the NFL and has been involved with the All Poly Camp since its inception. "Exposure is the key, and this is their chance."
EXTRA POINTS: Te'o said he was generally pleased with how things went in the camp's Hawai'i debut, and there are plans to return next year. However, a major hurdle could be pending NCAA legislation that would restrict college coaches from participating in clinics or camps beyond a 50-mile radius from their respective campuses. Te'o said he is in the process of gathering support for an appeal or at least a waiver for the All Poly Camp. "We plan to appeal within the next month," Te'o said. "It would put kids in a tough situation, and it would really hurt the kids in Hawai'i." Such a rule would prohibit UH coaches from participating in any camp not on O'ahu. Te'o added that the All Poly Camp is operated by the Polynesian Coaches Association, an independent organization not affiliated with any one college.