By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Again on signing day, this time on Feb. 5, the University of Hawaii football team had another chance to add Shaun Kagawa, stronger and far more seasoned after a year spent at the U.S. Military Academy.
The 2013 Kamehameha graduate was the last member of Southern Methodist’s class of 21 recruits to fax his national letter of intent to coach June Jones.
“You have until your junior year to sign a contract and commit to the Army,” Kagawa said. “If you get out before then, there’s no penalty. I’ll be a true freshman at SMU. In September or October, I decided the military was not for me.
“After I finished my (prep) football season, I put together a highlight tape and sent it to schools. After coach (Rich) Ellerson got fired, I talked to him about leaving. He helped me with the recruiting process, people he knew.”
The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Kagawa, who’ll be a safety for the Mustangs (5-7 last season), also received offers from North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, San Diego State and Vanderbilt.
UH, which finished 115th out of 123 NCAA Division I teams in total defense and allowed 494 yards per game, didn’t offer a scholarship to Kagawa. The Rainbow Warrior secondary was 117th in pass defense (281 ypg).
“I got a chance to talk to coach Norm Chow, but he said he had no scholarship offers at the time,” Kagawa said. “When we were talking, basically he said if a scholarship did open up he would offer me one. Hawaii was one of the first schools I was looking at, but they were in no position to offer.”
Instead, UH signed three prep safeties: Danny Mulanga (6-3, 190 pounds, from Texas), Daniel Lewis (5-11, 180, Louisiana) and Manly Williams (6-2, 180, from Farrington, Oahu).
A year ago, Chow made a late push to swing Kagawa’s verbal commitment from Army, but he had visited West Point, N.Y., and was convinced he would one day play for the Black Knights.
“The military wasn’t a right fit for me,” said Kagawa, who played in nine prep school games. “I couldn’t see myself in the Army for 10 years. It was a great education and program, but in the long run I wanted to experience regular school life and play regular Division I football.”
The Army is something of a feeder system for other colleges. Student-athletes enter as freshmen, gain a season of experience, and still retain their full eligibility if they exit after a year.
Kagawa said 10 other freshmen are leaving the U.S. Military Academy and 15 more were in the process of joining them. Two classmates will follow him to SMU, which ranked 76th in total defense (412 ypg) and 112th in pass defense (271 ypg).
Kamehameha’s Kamuela Kawamoto signed with Pima (Ariz.) Community College (5-5 overall, 4-4 conference), which plays in the competitive Western States Football League.
Kawamoto made the All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II first team at wide receiver and punter. The 5-10, 175-pound senior also played running back.
According to his profile on maxpreps.com, Kawamoto had 444 receiving yards in 10 games.
The Aztecs are in same conference as Scottsdale (10-1), Mesa (8-3), New Mexico Military (8-4), Eastern Arizona (6-5), Snow (5-6), Arizona Western (2-10), Glendale (4-7) and Phoenix (1-8).
Malia Kaiwi, a 2012 Makua Lani graduate, started eight of 12 games for the Southwestern Oregon College soccer team and led the team in scoring during the first half of the season.
However, she collided with a defender in a home game and will undergo ACL surgery soon and will likely redshirt for the upcoming 2014 season.
Her brother Josh Kaiwi, a 2010 Makua Lani graduate and standout pitcher, graduated from Special Forces/Green Beret training in North Carolina. He received recognition as an Honor graduate, where there was a 70 percent attrition rate in the class.
Wang first team
Tayler Wang, a 2010 Hawaii Prep graduate, closed out her senior season on the Lewis &Clark basketball team with her first appearance on the Northwest Conference first team.
She was honorable mention last season. Wang was fourth in the conference with 16.0 point per game, despite missing four games with an injury.
The 5-9 guard, who made the transition to the perimeter after life as a post player at HPA, made on last appearance at Whitman, scoring her 901st career point in the final seconds on Feb. 22.