Nash up for Classic
UH's holiday hoops tournament has always been a big part of his life
From his days as a ball boy to his career as a college athlete, Rainbow Classic week has long been a highlight on Bobby Nash's calendar.
Growing up the son of a Hawaii coach, Nash soaked in the festive hoops-filled atmosphere each holiday season. When he eventually put on the Rainbow Warrior uniform, he soon became part of the tournament's lore.
And as the 43rd annual event opens tonight, the excitement still bubbles over for the UH forward.
43rd Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic
When: Today to Saturday
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: KFVE, 5 and 7:30 p.m. games today to Friday. Third-place and championship games on Oceanic Cable Pay-Per-View on Saturday.
Radio: UH games on 1420 AM.
Tickets: Packages, $90 (lower bowl), $70 (upper); Individual games, $26 lower, $22 upper (on sale tomorrow). Daytime consolation games Friday and Saturday, $7.
Today: Wyoming vs. Nebraska, 5 p.m.; Hawaii vs. San Francisco, 7:30 p.m.
Tomorrow: Charlotte vs. Houston, 5 p.m.; Valparaiso vs. Creighton, 7:30 p.m.
Friday: Consolation--Wyoming/Nebraska loser vs. Hawaii/San Francisco loser, 11 a.m.; Charlotte/Houston loser vs. Valparaiso/Creighton loser, 1:30 p.m. Semifinals--Charlotte/Houston winner vs. Valparaiso/Creighton winner, 5 p.m.; Wyoming/Nebraska winner vs. Hawaii/San Francisco winner, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: Seventh-place, 11 a.m.; Fifth-place, 1:30 p.m.; Third-place, 5 p.m.; Championship, 7:30 p.m.
"You live for this week," Nash said. "This is a week where you don't think about anything else but UH Rainbow basketball. You might have assignments for school, and I don't want to offend any teachers at Iolani, but you put things aside and you go watch that basketball game.
"It's a fun time of year, you have the fans behind you, you go out there and play as hard as you can. You bring your energy and your 'A' game every night."
The son of longtime UH associate coach Bob Nash, the Iolani graduate spent much of his youth hanging around the tournament and watching some of the nation's best teams come through town.
This week, he'll be among the Rainbows in the spotlight as UH attempts to reclaim the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic title.
Nash entered the week averaging 9.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and is coming off the most productive performance of his college career.
He sparked the Rainbows with career highs in points (22) and rebounds (11) in the 89-78 win over Northwestern State last Saturday.
"Probably the best night of his career, offensively anyway," UH head coach Riley Wallace said after the game. "He had a complete game for us."
The 6-foot-6 junior did so while playing in the post for much of the game. He had played shooting guard for most of his UH career and had started at small forward this season. But sliding down to power forward wasn't foreign territory for him.
"I'm very comfortable playing the 4," said Nash, one of the state's top post players during his All-State career at Iolani.
"We had Coach (Cal) Hashimoto at Iolani, he was the big-guy coach. He always had the pad out there, and he always used to hit us and hit us and hit us to try to make us tough. Also my dad being a power forward, playing that position, you learn how to move around screens and get around bigger people."
His versatility has made Nash difficult to label while giving the UH coaching staff more options in mixing the combinations on the floor.
"Nowadays people get hung up on positions," said Bob Nash. "If you're a basketball player, you're a basketball player. You have to be able to guard people in the post, on the wing, on the perimeter. In high school he was a post man so he still has those skills, now he's able to do both."
As the team prepares to write another chapter in the Classic's history this week, the last two tournaments included moments ranking among both Nash's highest and lowest points in his career.
As a sophomore in 2004, Nash helped the Rainbows extend their run of Rainbow Classic titles. Trailing Oral Roberts 54-52 in a semifinal battle, Nash found himself with the ball and the clock speeding toward double-zeros. His 25-foot launch zipped through the net at the buzzer in one of the top finishes in Classic history.
"It's something that always and forever will be in my memory bank, but you kinda put it back there and leave it back there," he said. " I was just lucky I was put in that situation, but you can't dwell on it too long, you have to move forward and make new memories."
The Classic was decidedly less joyous last year. The Rainbows had their title streak end at four with a semifinal loss to Colorado State, which was also Nash's final game of the season as he aggravated a nagging shoulder injury that led him to apply for a medical hardship.
The rehab process meant living without the game for a while, creating a void in Nash's life.
"The doctor told me, 'You can't shoot, you can't do this, you can't do that.' I was like, 'Well, I'm a gym rat, what am I supposed to do?' " he said. "Just sitting at home eating food all the time and watching basketball games, that first month I was told not to do anything was just extremely hard."
The shoulder eventually responded and he worked his way back into shape over the summer and reclaimed a starting job in the fall, returning to the court with a renewed appreciation for the game.
"It was hard on him and when you don't have that to look forward to it really hurts," Bob Nash said. "So I think now he's really excited about this time around."
Said Bobby: "You just have to cherish the moments that you have playing the game of basketball."
Another father-son story:
The name Alan Wiggins may be familiar to many local sports fans. The speedy infielder was a dynamic member of the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders in 1981 and 82 on his way to a major-league career.
A team record 70 stolen bases and a World Series appearance with the San Diego Padres in 1984 highlighted a career that later became shrouded by drug use before his death in 1991 at age 32.
Alan Wiggins Jr., now carries on the name as a senior forward with San Francisco, UH's first-round opponent tonight. He is averaging 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds for the 4-7 Dons.
"Every time I step on the court I remember that I'm playing for my dad and I'm playing for my family," Wiggins said. "I take a lot of pride in that. I just try to lift up his name, keep his name up by doing all that I can."
His sister, Candice, is a junior guard at Stanford, and he said folks still recall his father's exploits on the field.
"I love it when they come up to me, or I say, 'My name is Alan Wiggins' and they say, 'Your dad was a great player,' " he said.