DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Point guard Zach Whiting is the last player left from Chaminade's upset of Villanova in 2003.
Whiting is in the game
Zach Whiting's summer internship at EA Sports didn't include tweaking the design of the video game company's latest college basketball release.
EA Sports Maui Invitational
All games at Lahaina Civic Center
(all games on ESPN2)
» Oklahoma vs. Memphis, 9:30 a.m.
» Purdue vs. Georgia Tech, noon
» DePaul vs. Kentucky, 4 p.m.
» Chaminade vs. UCLA, 6:30 p.m.
But given the opportunity, the Chaminade point guard knows what characteristic he'd bestow to his cyber-self.
"I'd want to be able to dunk because I can't dunk," Whiting said with a laugh. "I want a 99 on the dunk attribute."
In real life, Whiting's game isn't quite as flashy as his on-screen persona might be if he had his way. But his self-described "old-school" game has already earned him some national recognition.
Whiting, who led the EA Sports Maui Invitational field in assists last year, is among the nominees for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation's top point guard. He is one of two Division II players on a list that includes preseason All-American Ronald Steele of Alabama, Connecticut's A.J. Price, Arizona's Mustafa Shakur, Duke's Greg Paulus and UCLA's Darren Collison.
Whiting and Collison go head-to-head tomorrow when Chaminade faces No. 6 UCLA -- last season's NCAA Tournament runner-up -- in the first round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center.
"I didn't even know that the award existed," Whiting said. "It was definitely a confidence booster and I felt honored just to be nominated with some of the guys I watch on TV every night and admire. It's been awesome for me and my family and Chaminade."
The 23rd Maui Invitational tips off tomorrow morning with another stacked field. Joining Chaminade and UCLA in the tournament are No. 13 Memphis, No. 22 Kentucky, No. 23 Georgia Tech, DePaul, Oklahoma and Purdue.
"We just go in there to maybe hopefully sneak a win and maybe to hang with a couple teams," Whiting said. "Also we go there to enjoy ourselves. As Division II players we feel spoiled going there and getting the treatment that we do."
Whiting (6-foot-5, 205 pounds) was an All-Pacific West Conference first-team selection last season and is the only senior on a young Chaminade squad. He ranked fifth in Division II with 8.1 assists per game and averaged 14.1 points and five rebounds per game, and shot 52 percent from the field in helping the Silverswords to a 19-9 season.
"He's a big strong kid, pretty athletic. He's a lot quicker than you would guess him to be," said second-year head coach Matt Mahar, last season's PacWest Coach of the Year. "He just sees the floor really well and gets the job done whether it's on offense or defense, whatever we need."
An injury forced Whiting to redshirt his first year with the Silverswords, but not before he experienced one of the highlights of the Chaminade program. He is the only remaining member of the Silversword team that defeated Villanova in the opening round of the 2003 tourney.
"That's my biggest basketball thrill probably to this day," Whiting said. "I still get tingles looking at the pictures from that game. That definitely inspires me when we go over there because I know it can be done. If we play hard and play smart and we follow the game plan, it can be done."
Playing on Maui not only gave Whiting a chance to face elite competition, but helped create contacts with EA Sports personnel, which led to his eight-week internship last summer. The marketing and communications major was involved in the company's integrated marketing projects, including the Madden Challenge and the upcoming NBA Challenge.
Whiting said he often wore a UCLA jersey growing up (not that he was a big Bruins fan, that's just what the Foot Locker was selling in those days) and gets a chance to match up with the Bruins in tomorrow's nationally televised contest.
"It's prime time in California, all my family is going to be able to watch, all my friends," Whiting said. "Everybody's calling me saying 'You're in prime time, ESPN2, I'm gonna watch." And I'm like, 'You're really going to watch me over Monday Night Football?' "