Gardena (CA) Serra High School all-everything athlete Apaiata Tuihalamaka is one of those rare prospects that can easily project at four to five different positions at the college level. He is listed by Scout.com as a four star defensive end but he can also play tight end, linebacker or even safety. ‘Apai' was in Tucson late last week to check out the Wildcat program and he says that he came away very impressed.
"Oh it went really great," he said. "I had a great time meeting a lot of the players and seeing Coach (Mike) Tuiasosopo again and getting to talk to him. I really had a good time."
Apai says that the visit almost felt like an official visit because he got to see so much of what the Wildcats have to offer.
"It really did kind of feel like it should have been an official visit," he commented. "I got to hang out with Conan (Amituanai) and the quarterback (Willie Tuitama) and I had a good time. They are really good guys. Conan is a cool guy and he was telling about Arizona and why he chose to go there and play for U of A."
While in town Apai got to see a lot of the campus and the facilities. He also got to see something else that really stood out to him.
"The facilities there are awesome," he said. "They were just great. I rode around and saw the stadium and they showed me the weight room and that is just amazing. But I think the best thing is the academic support system that they have at U of A. I know that if I go there they will help me if I need it and I know they care about the academic side."
Apai is being recruited by Arizona defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo and the two have formed a real bond according to Apai.
"Coach Tui is almost like family," he said with a laugh. "Once I get to talking to him it is like he really is a part of the family. He is always honest with me and he is a really funny and down to earth guy. I know he cares about the players he has and I know he cares about me as a guy and not just a football player. I know that the U of A coaches can help me get to the next level and I would get a great education with them."
Another thing that really sticks out to Apai is the rich Polynesian connection that Arizona has.
"U of A has a lot of Polynesian players on their team right now," he said. "But they have had a lot of Polynesian players go through the program that have gone on to the next level and played in the NFL too. I like that they have Coach Tui there and Conan and their quarterback is Polynesian and some other guys too. It makes me feel really comfortable with them since they have people around that I can get along with and bond with. Guys like Conan, I like Conan a lot."
When it comes to narrowing things down on the recruiting front, Apai said that he has been able to narrow things down some but not much.
"I have eliminated a couple of schools," he said. "I eliminated Cal today but even with them I think I will still try and visit this summer so I know I made the right choice by eliminating them. I also eliminated ASU. I liked ASU but I have just gotten a better feeling at other schools like U of A. Right now I like U of A, Oregon, the Huskies (Washington), Miami, UNLV and of course I like the local schools USC and UCLA."
Apai went on to reiterate his wish to wait until his birthday to announce his decision.
"I really like the way Conan announced on his birthday in front of all of his family last year," he said. "My birthday is on January 4th so I want to announce where I am going to go to school on my birthday with my family there."
Stick with WildcatInsider.com for all the latest on Apai's recruitment.