BYU women's basketball: Keilani Unga works her way back for senior season after life-changing event

Published: Thursday, Jan. 17 2013 7:15 p.m. MST

Harvey Unga was attending a ward for Polynesian singles where his father was the bishop the same week Keilani accompanied a friend to the ward.

"We were both just visiting," she said. A mutual friend introduced them, and then Unga showed up at that friend's house and invited her over. He asked her out, but she was interested in someone else.

He persisted, and she said they could be friends. It took several months before she decided Harvey Unga was worth dating.

"It was his personality that won me over," she said, the smile returning to her face. "He was so easy to talk to. We could be really honest with each other, and our sense of humor is the same."

They were engaged on Sept. 11, 2008, her birthday. Their plan was to get married after their seasons and school had ended in the summer of 2009.

"I went home in June of 2009 and called it off," she said. "I was just scared, nervous and thinking too much."

Keilani had a three-year relationship in high school and Harvey had been her first serious boyfriend in college. She worried she hadn't dated enough.

When she returned to school in the fall of 2009, the two remained close.

"I felt like maybe I should date other people," she said. "So I would date and he would get upset. We were on and off that whole year. Every guy I dated, I would compare him to Harvey."

Her sisters warned her to either commit to Unga or break up for good, but she remained torn until that day in the doctor's office.

Telling her bishop was difficult, but the thought of telling her parents was devastating.

As she tried to hide the reality of her situation from her coaches and teammates, she tried to find the right time to tell her parents. After BYU was upset in the MWC tournament, Keilani decided to stay in Las Vegas with her family for a mini-vacation. She and Harvey were shopping with her mom when her mom made a joke.

"She said, 'Keilani are you pregnant?' But she was just joking," she said, and then the memory of that moment overcomes her. She cries again, the pain of disappointing her mother overwhelming.

"I just looked at my mom," she said. "I looked at Harvey. She started crying. It was the hardest thing. I felt so alone. She just told me, 'I don't know what to say.' "

Keilani's mother chooses her words carefully as she recounts that day.

"It was, of course, a very awkward and upsetting thing. … That it happened, was a really upsetting thing," Lose Moeaki said. "I knew the consequences school-wise and with basketball. We already knew what was going to happen. We all know the BYU honor code. There was no need to talk about it."

They left the store and got into the car. Keilani begged her mother not to tell her father.

"I'm really close with my dad," she said, stopping to wipe away tears. "I was so sad about disappointing them, about disappointing my dad."

Lose Moeaki told her husband after they returned home to Illinois. It took him two weeks before he could discuss it with his daughter.

The couple had meetings with their bishops, their coaches and school officials, but there was really only one option. They withdrew from school right after taking their finals. The school announced their withdrawal before Keilani had taken her last final, so she endured a final day of humiliation before she left for Illinois.

"The week after finals I met with the team and told them," she said. "It was a bawl-fest. Everyone was crying."

Judkins said watching students struggle with any off-court issue is painful, and his concern for them as people quickly replaces an impact their problems may have on the team.

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