'Iolani's Epenesa commits to UCLA
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
'Iolani School defensive tackle Seali'i Epenesa made a verbal commitment Thursday to accept a football scholarship offer from UCLA.
Epenesa, a 6-foot-2, 315-pound senior, chose the Bruins over Oregon State and Baylor. He visited all three schools this month.
Epenesa said Hawai'i also made a late offer, and other schools recruiting him earlier included Colorado, Washington and Texas Tech.
But he added that UCLA had been on his mind from the beginning.
"I always liked them, from the ninth grade," said Epenesa, who was named Interscholastic League of Honolulu Defensive Player of the Year this past season. "My trip (to Westwood) was real good, I got to meet my teammates, and not just them but the (outgoing) seniors, too."
Epenesa said he also attended the UCLA-USC men's basketball game at famed Pauley Pavilion.
"That was my first real (big-time) college basketball game," he said.
Epenesa said he also enjoyed his visits to Baylor and Oregon State, but felt most comfortable at UCLA.
"They were all nice, all great places with good academics," Epenesa said.
Epenesa said Hawai'i made its scholarship offer about three weeks ago, but UH was not among his final choices.
"They offered me the week I left for my (Mainland) trip," he said. "It was too late."
When asked if it would have made a difference if UH's offer came earlier, Epenesa said, "Definitely."
'Iolani coach Wendell Look said Epenesa's agility makes him unique.
"For a big guy, he's able to move in ways other guys his size would have a hard time," Look said. "He has a lot of athleticism."[0xad]
Look said Epenesa's jovial spirit also made him an attractive prospect.
"(Recruiters) all liked him because he's so personable," Look said. "They liked him for the kind of guy he is and what he could bring to their team."
Read his blog on high school sports at http://preptalk.honadvblogs.com.