Getting to know the 2011 Oregon Duck newcomers: Lake Koa-Ka’ai

Getting to know the 2011 Oregon Duck newcomers: Lake Koa-Ka’ai

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Getting to know the 2011 Oregon Duck newcomers: Lake Koa-Ka’ai


Lake Koa-Ka’ai
DL – 6-4, 245, 4.8
Honolulu, Hi. (Kamehameha Schools Kapalama HS)

Bad behavior gets headlines.  Too often, it dominates them with insidious consistency; it’s the chief function of a free press to sustain itself by sustaining our attention, most easily done by appealing to our base and insatiable appetite for ruin and the remorse of others.

It might go unnoticed if it weren’t so powerfully obvious:  the 2011 Ducks include some exceptional young men.  Alphabetically, Lake Koa-Ka’ai is next.

This spring Koa-Ka’ai was one of 12 state athletes to be inducted into the Hawaii High Ring of Honor for athletic achievement and character.  Twelve young men and women from all sports are selected throughout the state each year by an independent committee.  It’s a big deal.

They held the ceremony at the Sheraton Wakiki, and Koa-Ka’ai’s track coach, Harvey McInnery stood up to introduce him. “He is industrious, intelligent, dedicated, courageous, humble and compassionate,” Mcinnery said,  “There is not a better athlete I can think of that deserves to be honored by your organization more than Koa Kaai does.”  Paul Honda of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser covered this story, thankfully more significant that night than a traffic accident on the big island or kids caught smoking marijuana on the beach.

Lake K-K was a three-sport athlete in high school, a first-team All State football player named by ESPN as the best prospect in Hawaii. He was 2nd in state in the shot put, and his prep basketball team won the state championship.  But the reporter also noted Koa-Ka’ai’s exceptional citizenship.  Honda wrote, “Kaai’s 3.6 grade-point average and dedication in the weight room left him with little free time, but he made the most of it. Kaai coaches girls basketball at Manoa, has done community service on Kauai and the Big Island. On Kauai, he has been involved with beach clean-ups and the restoration of a heiau.” A heiau, for all us Haoles, is an historical Hawaiian temple used to dedicate the sick or offer first fruits or the first catch.  Fitting, really, because he is first catch among athletes and young men, an honor student with a 1760 score on his SAT.

As a football player Koa-Ka’-ai is the second of Oregon’s great Lakes, and an exciting prospect.  He’s worked hard in the weight room since signing and put on what he calls “good weight,” up to 260 lbs. since his Duck bio.  His youthful body will thicken on his 6-4 frame, and he may grow enough to move inside before long.  He and line coach Jerry Azzinaro haven’t decided.  He’s quick and tough in pursuit, qualities refined in his senior year by a steady diet of double teams.  His high school football coach, David Stant told Lindsay Schnell of the,  “He’s a big boy with good, explosive power from his hips down,” Stant said. “He’s got great hands. He’s always busy (making plays) with his hands. He never quits on a play. He’s a good hard-hitter and it always helped us that other teams had to have a game plan for him.”

K-K has tremendous potential. “He’s so good,” Stant said, again to Schnell, “but has so much room for growth.”

The Portland State game was a good weekend for the Ducks.  Not only did they dispatch their in-state opponent 69-0 to reach 3-0; they welcomed a group of recruits that included Anthony Wallace, Ifo Ekpre-olomu and Rahim Cassell. Lake chose Oregon just a week after visiting Stanford.  He also had offers from Colorado, Arizona, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon State,  USC, Texas Tech, Washington, Washington State, Hawaii, Wyoming.

This is where the recruiting star system gets weird and unreliable. A standout prospect from a remote place gets attention from 14 Division I schools, including a handful from the Top 20, and the recruitniks give him a semi-unanimous “meh.”  Koa-Ka’ai was rated 3 stars by ESPN, rivals and  Scout added a fourth.

In the end, he’s not a number on a spreadsheet.  He’s an athlete with heart and the will to excel.  He chose a school where excellence in competition is a way of life, and he’s certain to thrive there.  Here’s a look at his high school team in action.  Lake is number 93, usually the one chasing down the quarterback like a rabbit a long way from his hole.

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