Rainbows make themselves at home in Lahaina

December 17, 2010, 8:02 AM HST · Updated December 17, 8:02 AM
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By Fred Guzman

Technically, the game will be played on a neutral court. In reality, the University of Hawaii will be involved in a de facto home game tonight against Chicago State at the Lahaina Civic Center.

It’s all a part of athletic director Jim Donovan’s continuing efforts to show that this is truly the University of Hawaii and not the University of a Oahu as some people – most vocally and notably, veteran UH announcer Jim Leahy – would have you believe.

Leahy, as you may recall, publicly grumbled about UH playing a football game against Montana some years back at War Memorial Stadium. He considered the press box accommodations to fall well short of his standards, although they were good enough for ESPN announcers when that network was airing the Hula Bowl.

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And he’s been heard grumbling about UH playing a basketball game on Maui, although the Lahaina Civic is good enough for the best teams in college basketball, who cherish an invitation to take part in the MIT.

The challenge for local fans is to show the kind of support necessary to persuade Donovan to this again. I’m well aware that Chicago State, at 3-9, is hardly a comparable attraction to the marquee teams that annually make the pilgrimage for Maui Invitational. But at $12 for adults and $6 for seniors and students, the price is right – particularly for Maui residents claiming to be fans of the Bows.

Just how good is this UH basketball team? It’s hard to say at this point. Hawaii’s record in Gib Arnold’s first season is a respectable 5-2, although the quality of opponents has been mediocre so far.

All of those wins have come at home, with the losses coming in UH’s only two road games. The first was a one-point setback at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. The second was a decisive defeat at No 16 BYU.

Following tonight’s game, Arnold will get a better idea of exactly where his team stands because Hawaii will be competing in the second edition of the Diamond Head Classic, which tips off Wednesday at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH opens the tournament against Florida State, with Utah and Butler also on its side of the bracket. Also entered are No. 9 Baylor, Mississippi State, Washington State and San Diego.

But even then, UH likely still will be missing senior power forward Bill Amis, who was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder when he went down with a stress fracture in his right foot.

There had been talk about Amis seeing token duty against Chicago State, but that plan has been shelved. Arnold may also decide to hold out the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder until the start of the WAC season, when UH will be severely tested with road games against title-favored Utah State and Nevada.

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