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Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Saturday, March 13, 2004


There’s a reason
you aren’t here


PEOPLE have asked me if I have seen the Sports Illustrated on Campus cover story that asks, in full color, "Why Aren't You Here?"

Here, of course, being, in Hawaii, on the beach, hanging out with Haim Shimonovich.

Of course I've seen it.

It's a tremendous boon for UH. SI is selling the Manoa campus as a place for the nation's best athletes to be.

Fantastic.

Unbelievable.

Incredible.

The kind of publicity that money just can't buy.

It says, right there, on the cover:

PARADISE FOUND.

Who wouldn't want to hang out on the beach with Haim Shimonovich (in full basketball uniform)?

But the question remains what all this publicity will do for UH. First, I'm not sure what SIOC's reach is. I had never heard of it, until it started showing up around the office a couple of months ago. (Though surely someone sharp at UH has snatched up every available copy and has attached the article's Internet address to every e-mail in sight.)

But the bigger issue is that there is nothing really new in the story.

Hawaii has always had a beach, and everyone in America has always known it.

UH has always had unique and prestigious academic programs, and recruits have always been made aware of that fact (though it is nice for a national publication to mention it).

UH has had a nice athletic history (except for the Fred vonAppen debacle, of course) of many very competitive teams and, sometimes, some very successful ones.

So why aren't you here?

Well, the answer is, as UH coaches know and as June Jones articulated in the article, it's just not that simple.

Despite the traditional conventional wisdom that every athlete in America should have Hawaii among his or her top five dream destinations, it doesn't quite work out that way.

And in the end, the SIOC story answered its own question. Geography.

Reality is, as UH has learned the hard way so many times, when you're getting a recruit to actually sign on that line or board that plane, the 2,500-something miles between Hawaii and the West Coast may as well be a million.

Reality is, it's tough to get some people to take that step.

You know how Hawaii people on the mainland pine for local touches of home? Apparently it works in reverse, too.

You should see Grace Wen describe her fondness for In-N-Out Burger, and other LA delicacies. It's an emotional experience.

In my own house, my wife gets upset every time a Target commercial comes across the TV on a national broadcast. ("They shouldn't be allowed to advertise here if there is no store here!" she says.)

The beach is a great lure, but when it comes down to taking a "Honolulu City Lights" flight, it often isn't enough.

Oh, this SIOC cover story is fantastic, unbelievable, incredible for UH. It certainly could help.

But I suspect most Hawaii student-athletes will continue to be special cases, special people.



See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com

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