Wednesday, December 6, 2023

2023 11 The Maui Invitational Basketball Tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii

The Maui Invitational Basketball Tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii

I am going to assume that no one reading this is going to be shocked to know that Maui suffered the worst tragedy back in August when 97 people lost their lives and the town of Lahaina was completely destroyed. Denice and I had been in Lahaina in 2019 attending an art workshop so we were especially struck by the destruction in places where we had stood.

My photo from 2019 of the Pioneer Inn where we had an art workshop

Pioneer Inn 2023 (Washington Post photo)

This was going to be the year where I finally got to cross off my bucket list an opportunity to attend the Maui Invitational, an annual early-season college basketball tournament that takes place Thanksgiving week, normally at the Lahaina Civic Center on the island of Maui. But now the Civic Center is a rescue facility.

Not in anyway to ignore the tragedy but the tournament eventually decided to move the whole thing over to the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center on the UH Mānoa Campus on the island of O’ahu. The good news is that the Marquette Golden Eagles were invited into what may be the greatest Maui gathering ever because the rest of the field includes Kansas, Gonzaga, Purdue, Tennessee, UCLA, Syracuse and the host school, Chaminade. So we decided to do it this year despite all the changes.

Friday, November 17, 2023

8:15 a.m. (CST)

Today we began our Maui Invitational trip to Hawaii when Denice’s sister Marijeanne picked us up and drove us to the Coach USA terminal on 13th Street in Milwaukee. We got a little bit of a shock when a sign on the door said since Covid-19 the terminal is not staffed. However, that does not mean the bus does not stop to pick up passengers like us there so by 9:10 a.m. we were on the bus heading to O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

We arrived at O’Hare by 10:45 a.m. (2.5 hours so far). Our first flight was at 12:55 p.m. from Chicago to LAX in Los Angeles where we arrived at 3:10 p.m. (PST—9 hours so far).

We had a hour and forty five minute layover before boarding our plane for Honolulu. This was a five hour and 50 minute flight and we arrived in Honolulu at 8:45 p.m. (HST—15.5 hours so far).

We gathered our bags and headed for the ground transportation area but decided to take a $50 taxi ride rather than be delayed because we had to schedule the hotel shuttle. Then we checked into the Sheraton Waikiki and I am now typing this at 11:00 p.m (HST—at the end of a 18 hour travel day!)

This welcome banner in our hotel was the first tournament sighting for us. Later we would find out that besides Marquette, our hotel hosted Tennessee, Kansas and Gonzaga. Occassionally we would meet the whole team coming back from training, had a chance to talk twice with David Joplin and once with coach Shaka Smart. 

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Last night I bought food for breakfast at the convenience store in the Sheraton because we were going to have to get up at 5:30 a.m. and get moving, long before the hotel breakfast place would be open in the lobby.

Sand sculptures were building art in our lobby and at the front door. 

Today, at 7:10 a.m., a short walk from the hotel, we met a bus to take us on the Circle Island Tour. 

We toured around the east side of Oahu including Hanauma Bay and Halona Bay where the famous beach love scene in From Here to Eternity with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr.

We spent some time at a blow hole where water from the ocean sprays through a lava tube. 

At 12:30 p.m., we were dropped off at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. This experience was going to be a full day of activities that started off with us joining a party of eight others for a guided tour. The PCC is run by Brigham Young University-Hawaii campus and most of the personnel are college students working off their tuition. However, the level of professionalism throughout the day was impressive. 

Photo from the PCC

There are six cultures featured in the 42 acres: Hawaii, Tonga, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji. Each island has demonstrations and a show about their culture that is impressive to watch as well as informative. I highly recommend the experience—but wait, it is going to get better. When we were sitting in the Maori area of Samoa, the cast did their haka. According to Wikipedia, a “haka are a variety of ceremonial dances in Māori culture. Haka are often performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. Haka have been traditionally performed—by both men and women—for a variety of social functions within Māori culture.” This is a very chilling demonstration with much facial distortion and sometimes is done to intimidate your enemy. 

Example from the Internet of a Maori haka performer

On this particular day, when the cast stopped about 40 men and women in black tee shirts stood up all over the audience and began to battle back with a haka of their own. It turns out the New Zealand army was visiting the site today and they wanted to send a message. The vibrant emotion in these chants, nearly scary to be next to someone doing it, cannot be described. It was both disturbing and exhilarating. At the end of the show, the cast stated the obvious—that does not happen everyday at the PCC. Wowzer.

Photo from PCC

By 5:00 we were at the Alii Luau dinner, which is a typical Hawaiian luau with great food and a program. Tonight we saw, Onipaa: A Tribute to Queen Liliʻuokalani, the story of the last hereditary princess of the island which included songs she wrote and some hula dancing.

But for me the highlight of the day was at 7:30 p.m. we sat down in a stunning theater (the backdrop rose about 3 stories in the night sky) for the show, HA, Breath of Life. Simply put, the story involved a young couple, pregnant with child, forced to flee their homeland because of a volcano, seeking refuge on each of the six islands. At each stop they age, experience new adventures until the young boy has become the father. 

Photo from PCC

Again, the cast is mostly BYU students but you would never know it from the level of the production. We have seen professional show that don’t bring it as well as this one did. The other advantage of having done the tour is most of the cultural things we learned during the day about these six nations was reinforced in the show. I cannot recommend seeing this show highly enough if you get to the island of Oaha in the future. 

You may notice a lack of pictures here. During our tour, I think I hit some button on my camera that altered the pre-settings so that the camera did not work right. I believe I might have also accidently overwrote some of the photos I took at the PCC when I re-set the camera. Oh, well--the photos above are all from alternate sources of photos. 

Our round trip bus back to hotel got us home around 10:45. Yes, it was a 17 hour day for us but well worth staying awake for it all. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Today it was going to be a little easier for us. We left the hotel around 9:00 a.m. and walked to a Cuban breakfast place called Castro’s where we had a breakfast that not only tasted good but had beautiful presentation, a surprise considering it is just kind of a hole-in-the-wall café.

On the walk, I did some street photography:

We then took the Lyft to the Honolulu Museum of Art. While the plan had been to go here and then onto one more museum, we ended up spending the whole day in the art museum. There current contemporary exhibition is a display of recent works by David Hockney which I must admit underwhelmed me. However, all the rest of the museum was very exciting, vibrant and informative. 

When we first arrived the museum was celebrating Indigenous Month with a dance performance by a Native American troop from the mainland. 

All along on this trip I was under the impression that we had tickets for all 12 games in our package. As it turns out (in a very long story that is too long to relate), I was mistaken. The upside of this story is that it was very easy to buy upper tier cheap seats for the non-Marquette sessions which saved the day. To say there was some anxiety in this process would be an understatement.

We decided to have dinner at RumFire here at the Sheraton. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

We were up at 5:30 a.m. again today (what kind of vacation is this!) so that we could eat breakfast here in the hotel by 6:30 a.m. We caught the provided tournament shuttle at 8:00 a.m. and head over to the Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa for today’s four games.

The results of the morning session:

#7 Tennessee 73, Syracuse 56

#2 Purdue 73, #11 Gonzaga 63

During the session break Denice and I walked to a local Korean restaurant where I ordered Ginger Chicken Soup off the lunch menu and got a pot with a whole chicken in it. Yikes.

The afternoon session results:

#1 Kansas 83, Chaminade 56.

We really want to believe that Marquette is the #4 team in the nation but when you are down 12 points in the second half, doubt does creep in. Marquette held UCLA to a skunk (six possessions without a score), climb back into the lead and held off a last second attempt by the Bruins to win. It was so exciting.

My cell phone photo of the tipoff of the UCLA game from our seats

#4 Marquette 71, UCLA, 69

We shuttled home and were in bed by 10:30 p.m. because guess what? Tomorrow is round two and we have to do the whole thing all over again except this time Marquette will play #1 Kansas Jayhawks. Yikes again.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

We slept a little later this morning, had breakfast in the hotel, checked on a ring that Denice purchased but had to be sized (still not available), caught the shuttle and spent the day watching four more basketball games. 

The morning session results:

#11 Gonzaga 76, Syracuse 57

UCLA 76, Chaminade 48

The afternoon sessions results:

#2 Purdue 71, #7 Tennessee 67

The game between #1 Kansas and #4 Marquette proved to be a bit odd. While we were full of tension and not confident again, Marquette led almost the entire game and won by 14 points. There was one point where there was a bench clearing incident but luckily no violence and no ejections. Being in the fan section for a major university is a very different experience than we have at our home games at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. It was very exciting, I was hoarse from yelling and we were exhilarated at the win.

#4 Marquette 73, #1 Kansas 59

After the game we had to wait in a long line to catch the shuttle as both schools are in the same hotel. When we got back to the hotel lobby we had a chance to see Ben Gold (a huge Australian center who drained two critical 3-pointers in the game) and a chance to talk with David Joplin, a power forward from Brookfield, WI, who seemed dazed but happy at what they had accomplished. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

It’s Championship Day in the Maui Tournament and because of television time back on the mainland, the games are the first ones in the morning here. We ate breakfast in the hotel and were on the shuttle so we would be ready for the first game. 

Third Place Consolation Game: #1 Kansas 69, #7 Tennessee 60

In the Championship Game, Marquette played hard but had no answer for Purdue’s center, 7’ 4” tall Zach Edey who scored 28 points and pulled down 19 rebounds while causing fouls on multiple Golden Eagles. On top of that, we did not shoot that well or handle the ball as we should have. However, in the end, we had a chance to sink a 3-pointer to tie up the game but that did not go in and we lost. 

Maui Invitational Tournament Championship Game: Purdue 78, Marquette 75

We took the shuttle back from the arena, did a little shopping, got so down time in the room (Denice went swimming) before we headed out for some food at Doraku Sushi Waikiki. We were treated to a Disney-like Christmas show in the mall while we ate which also meant we could Santa arrive. 

After we got back to the hotel, we decided not to go to the two evening session as the games were meaningless for the tournament. However, I was able to catch the second game on TV.

Then it was time to hit the hay as tomorrow we are doing part two of this trip: The Big Island of Hawaii.

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