NOTEBOOK / MITCH POLIN : Mira Costa’s Fonua in Stable Condition After Suffering Brain Aneurysm
Mira Costa High three-sport standout Phil Fonua, regarded as one of the premier prep football prospects in the nation this year, was transferred out of intensive care Wednesday and is in stable condition after undergoing surgery for a ruptured blood vessel in his brain last week.
The 6-foot-2 and 275-pound Fonua was preparing for his senior season when he collapsed Aug. 10 during a workout in the Mira Costa weight room.
He was initially taken to South Bay Hospital before being transferred to Torrance Memorial Medical Center for surgery. Fonua, 18, underwent 5 1/2 hours of surgery Thursday as a result of the aneurysm.
“His physician (Dr. James Joachim) said he is very much improved,” a hospital spokeswoman said. “He’s alert and responsive.”
The spokeswoman said Fonua has begun therapy. His condition, which was listed as serious, was upgraded to stable on Wednesday.
Fonua had been touted as a preseason prep All-America by publications such as Street & Smith’s and Bluechip Illustrated after an impressive junior season and a strong showing at a scouting combine during the summer.
As a junior, he led the Mira Costa defense with 16 quarterback sacks and also rushed for 403 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns at fullback and wingback. The Mustangs finished 13-1 and won the Southern Section Division VII championship.
He was honored as the Division VII player of the year and was named to The Times’ All-South Bay first team.
Fonua also was a standout center in basketball, averaging 14.7 points and making The Times’ All-South Bay second team. He completed his junior year by finishing fourth in the shotput at the state track and field championships in June.
There will be a distinct Carson High flavor to the Santa Monica College football team this season.
The Corsairs will start the season with eight players from Carson on the roster.
Topping the list are sophomore linebackers Chris Vaimili and Lomi Fa’avae, regarded as two of the top returning players in the Western State Conference. Freshmen expected to make the biggest impact are running back John Houston and wide receiver Nakia Wheeler.
Houston rushed for 681 yards and nine TDs in 98 carries for the Colts last season and Wheeler is a big target at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. Other former Colts on the roster are freshman offensive guards Sterling Bowman and Rico Spencer and brothers Tali and Mantunau Salima at offensive tackle.
How did the players wind up at Santa Monica? The most obvious reason is the presence of former Carson standout Rowen Tupuivao, who is Santa Monica’s defensive coordinator. He is Carson’s career leader in tackles with 263 in 1972 and 1973.
Harbor College is in search of a men’s basketball coach after the resignation of Carl Strong two weeks ago.
Strong had coached the Seahawks the past three seasons, posting a record of 49-46 and guiding the team to three consecutive berths in the Southern California playoffs. Harbor was 14-16 last season and finished third in the powerful South Coast Conference.
His resignation came as a surprise to Harbor officials because Strong was a Harbor graduate, played basketball there and was regarded as a fixture in the athletic program. He had coached at Harbor since coming out of retirement three years ago.
Athletic Director Jim O’Brien said the school hopes to name a new coach by the end of next week.