Junior Rank hits the Islands
Steven Lakalaka (© Barry Markowitz, 2010)
Steven Lakalaka (© Barry Markowitz, 2010)
Northwest Recruiting Analyst
Posted Jun 15, 2011
Chris Fetters (Scout.com)

HONOLULU - Shaon Berry was working with FBU to find players for the Mainland v. Hawaii game when he met up one day with Tom Lemming a couple of years ago. That chance meeting would help change the direction of Berry's career, and by extension the future of football camps on the islands.

Berry's Junior Rank has hooked up with Doris Sullivan of the PIAA to promote a unique camping experience, one that starts this coming Friday at 'Aiea High School.

"I was blown away by the talent," Berry told Scout.com. "He told me you have to talk to this person, Doris Sullivan. She's got the best connection to the best athletes and the top talent on the islands. And we've been friends ever since."

Sullivan, who is celebrating the tenth anniversary of running camps in Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii for the non-profit organization she founded - the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance (http://www.pacificathleticalliance.com/) - is well known among the islands for helping Hawaiian student-athletes earn scholarships to colleges all across the country, through the running of combines and the dissemination of highlight and game DVD's.

Lemming, who is now in charge of picking the players that will play in the brand new Semper Fidelis All-Star game, affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps and held next January in Phoenix, told Berry that if he wanted to run a camp in Hawaii, he had to call Doris. Lemming comes out to Hawaii at least once a year as part of his national recruiting road trip, to evaluate the top players in the area.

"It really means something out here," Sullivan said of Lemming's presence in Hawaii. "He's a national guy."

Berry was looking to get out from FBU and start his own company. His vision became Junior Rank.

"In this economy, parents are looking for something that's affordable, and also credible," Berry said when asked why he created Junior Rank. "And I think we've been able to offer that. My primary goal is to see kids to either invite to this (Semper Fidelis) game, or strong kids to invite for the next game that are underclassmen. For me it's all about identifying the best student-athletes and the best people that happen to play football. And they are exceptional football players. It's a natural fit for who we are and what we stand for, and for what the Marine Corps stand for. It's all about building relationships, and I feel we do a better job of doing that than anyone else."

No one has built up relationships through the network of high school coaches and parents of players in the islands quite like Sullivan. And she knows how quickly reputations can be ruined if you don't do things the right way. "It's all about local reputation," she said. "In Hawaii, if you do one thing bad, your reputation is ruined forever; you do 10 things good, then you're good. We're locally owned and operated, and they get as much exposure from our little island company as they do from any other major camp or combine.

"When I saw (Junior Rank) were involved with the U.S. Marine Corps - that stands for values when the Marine Corps hooks up with somebody. It takes a lot for them to give money. They just don't give it out. I don't align myself with people I don't trust. We pick and choose who we work with, and they have to have the same goal as us. It's not amount the money. It's about the kids. It's about the athletes. It's about making sure the kids get the most opportunity and the most exposure they can."

When she met Berry, she knew Junior Rank could offer a fresh spin on what the PIAA already provided, something that not even the bigger camps - like All-Poly, for instance - could not.

"It's great that they come in and that they bring in the college coaches," Sullivan said of All-Poly. "I respect them for that. But there have to be other options out there as well that have to be cost-effective. I wanted to provide something different. We have a lot of great camps that come into Hawaii, but not everyone can afford them. I wanted to bring in coaches that were different, so that the kids aren't constantly coached by the same coaches they see over and over and over. This way they can get additional exposure."

The three-day PIAA/Junior Rank camp is run at a cost of $99 per player.

"I think it's going to be different than anything the islands have ever seen," added Berry. "When you look at what we do from a camp perspective, with three days of evaluation - as athletically intense as it is, it's equally as intense our ability to observe their character and how they interact with our coaches, and walking away with a good feeling of getting to know them on a personal basis."

Besides getting professional coaching, Sullivan believes there's also a practical application provided by Junior Rank. "It's important for me to get the former and current NFL people in there to actually work one-on-one with the kids and coach them, so that then they do go in front of the college coaches, they look good," she said.

Berry said flat-out his staff, one that includes former pro players Blair Thomas, Mark McMillan, Ernest Jones, Robert Hicks, and former Hawaii players Jake Ingram, Nate Illoa, Aaron Bain, Keala Watson, and Rocky Savaiigea - is the best in the country. He's also brought in Quarterbacks Coach Mike Sims, who is a Head Coach at the Peyton Manning Passing Academy, to teach the signal-callers.

"We've got guys who don't just have NFL titles, but have a passion and a tremendous technical ability to teach the positions within the sport," said Berry.

The PIAA will start things off with a camp combine at 2 pm Friday. The information culled will go out to over 600 colleges within a week. After dinner, the Junior Rank staff will lay out the camp itinerary, one that includes some time for fellowship and prayer Sunday morning. Berry said the optional prayer service is a key component to the entire Junior Rank mission.

"We're non-denominational, but our belief in God is strong. Personally, it's all tied directly to God, and what I think are some great lessons we can all learn. Those close to me know this is as much a ministry for me as it is about offering credible athletic opportunities.

"I have noticed a tremendous amount of faith in the DNA and the makeup of the great people on the islands that I have met. I'm looking forward to a great experience."

The Marine Corps, who will be involved in dynamic training and leadership sessions during the camp, put their money behind Junior Rank by offering up 50 camp scholarships. They were given out randomly through the PIAA website. The first players to sign up were the three Lakalaka brothers from Punahou, led by the oldest brother Steven, who has verbally committed to UCLA.

Others, like Punahou DE Luke Kaumatule and 2013 DT Reeve Koehler from St. Louis - brother of former Arizona signee Solomon Koehler - have also signed up for the event. Two more Crusaders - 2012 DE Kalei Auleula, 2013 WR Jeremy Tabuyo, as well as 2012 LB Jonathan Makaiau from Mililani will also be attending the camp.

It's not just Oahu-based players that are trying to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Isaiah Correia, from Waiakea High School on the Big Island, as well as Shane Brostek from Hawaii Prep Academy, are two prospects traveling in to make their name and earn a coveted Semper Fidelis invite. Here's a sampling of some more prospects expected to attend the camp:

Pono Choy - Kamehameha (Kapalama)
Kamden Hilliard - Punahou
Donald Monroe - Punahou
Russell Siavii - Leilehua
Cilvin Steward - Mililani
Brian Silva - Pac-5 (Maryknoll)

The camp, in its first year coming to Hawaii, is looking to provide quality over quantity. "I think what's different is that we make it real personal," said Berry. "It's not a cattle call. We're looking at 300 athletes, and we want to spend as much time getting to know them as we possibly can."

For those interested in finding out more on this camp, click on the link below.

PIAA/Junior Rank Camp - Honolulu

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OL Shane Brostek (profile)
DE Kamden Hilliard (profile)
TE Luke Kaumatule (profile)
OG Reeve Koehler (profile)
RB Steven Lakalaka (profile)
S Russell Siavii (profile)
LB Cilvin Steward (profile)
WR Jeremy Tabuyo (profile)
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