The Maui Invitational basketball tournament is far and above the best college pre-season basketball tournament in all of college basketball. It is a privilege to play in it for any Division I player, especially each of the players here at Chaminade.
As this year’s team captain, I present a behind-the-scenes perspective to what the players do and some highlights from this year’s trip.
Since we are the host team, we have to perform extra activities upon arrival in Maui, which gives us a great opportunity to work with the community. This year we put on a kids clinic for over 100 children ranging from young kids to teenagers. It is so fun to work with little kids that look up to us as basketball players. Watching our team, especially Zack Johnson, who is undoubtedly our biggest player standing at 6-foot 9-inches and 270 pounds, work with the little kids was priceless. It really puts basketball into perspective and reminds us that we used to be the little kids like them admiring older players.
Each year there is a simulated Maui Invitational tournament through the EA Sports video game, titled “NCAA Basketball 2010.” The brackets are identical to the real tournament brackets and players from each team play against one another digitally. It is a huge highlight for the players to compete against each other in such a fun and non-physical way. This year Cartier Carter from Chaminade almost beat a Maryland player but lost 17-18. The entire teams of Chaminade and Maryland were standing next to one another cheering on their teammate to victory in the game. Cartier missed a last second shot to win the game, which would have been Chaminade’s first-ever victory in the Xbox 360 tournament.
A small shave-ice stand in Lahaina created two flavors special for the tournament. The first flavor was the Chaminade Silver Sword, which consisted of coconut and blueberry. The second flavor was the Maui Invitational flavor, and it consisted of flavors I found unappealing, so I did not order one and subsequently cannot remember the flavors. The owner of the stand was a very nice gentleman, however, and brought the entire team down to let us choose a flavor of his shave ice. We took a picture in front of the stand for him to post on the wall at his stand. It was such a refreshing way to end the day after a long practice with some good shave ice!
At the annual team banquet, each team attends along with fans, boosters and families. All of the coaches have a chance to joke about his players and coaches in front of a packed audience. It is always cool to see famous coaches having a humorous side of them besides their traditional serious side on the court. Chaminade coach Matt Mahar used his jokes to target two players, Chris Smith and Cartier Carter, about their special handshake. In our previous scrimmage a few weeks prior the guys decided to make a handshake for the game.
In our film session after the game coach noticed it and paused the tape to address the actions, especially because we were loosing at the time. After all was said and done, the entire team was laughing so hard some of us were crying. The team really enjoyed that part of his speech, even though the audience did not understand the scenario and background behind the joke.
The games are the main event of the tournament for the players, and our team has anticipated them since day one of practice on Oct. 15. Our team was new to the tournament, since I was the only returnee from last season. Being the only person who has ever experienced the tournament, I was the recipient of hundreds of questions about where to go and what we were doing.
Our first game was against an experienced and nationally ranked No. 22 team, Maryland. I think the team surprised everyone when we battled with superior Division I teams like nationally ranked Maryland and Vanderbilt. Every game we were close at half time, with the largest lead being 10 points, which was a surprise even to me. We went 0-3 for the tournament but in the long run this will benefit our team greatly. We grew together as a team and saw glimpses of how good we can be this season.