The road to this year's Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic title goes through Kansas.
The Jayhawks come into town for the annual Christmas basketball tournament at the University of Hawaii's Special Events Arena as the No. 2 team in the nation and should be heavily favored to win the championship.
Junior Raef LaFrentz is the main reason why the Jayhawks are flying high this season. The 6-foot-11 senior center is averaging 21.2 points and 11.4 rebounds a game. On Tuesday night, LaFrentz popped in 17 points and had nine caroms to lead the Jayhawks (14-1) to their sixth straight win in a 74-69 decision over Southern California.
Guard Anthony "AC" Carter looks to lead Hawaii
to its third Rainbow Classic title in 24 years.
LaFrentz became the third player in Kansas history with 1,000 or more rebounds at 1,005 with his efforts against USC. He needs just 183 to pass career leader Danny Manning.
Joining Kansas in the eight-team tournament which begins tomorrow at 5:30 p.m., are Virginia, Nebraska, BYU, Vanderbilt, New Mexico State, Ohio State and the host Rainbows.
A quick look at the teams, with this season's records in parentheses:
Hawaii (7-1): The Rainbows hope carry their momentum into the tournament after winning the Nike Festival last week.
Senior guards Alika Smith and Anthony Carter are the mainstays for UH. Smith is leading the 'Bows in scoring with 18.4 while Carter has a 17.6 average. Micah Kroeger (11.8) and Eric Ambrozich (10.4) are also in double figures in scoring. Mike Robinson is a force on the boards with 6.3 rebounds a game.
Virginia (6-3): The Cavaliers are lead by hot-shooting guard Curtis Staples. The 6-3 senior is averaging 18.3 points a game and ranks No. 18 on the NCAA career 3-point shooting chart.
Norman Nolan, a 6-8 senior averages 17.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Nebraska (8-2): The Cornhuskers have three players averaging in double figures led by junior guard Tyronn Lue's 20 points. Center Venson Hamilton (6-10), who also lead Nebraska in rebounding with 11.4 per game, checks in at 14.4 while sophomore guard Cookie Belcher (6-3) is at 11.8
Kansas' Raef LaFrentz knows Hawaii.
He was the MVP in last year's Maui Invitational.
BYU (3-7): Forward Mekeli Wesley, a 6-9 freshman, is the man to watch for the Cougars. He is averaging 14.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.
Justin Weidauer, a 6-7 senior forward, and junior guard Brian Hamilton help BYU in the scoring department with 10.3 and 10.1 points, respectively.
Ohio State (7-3): The Buckeyes will rely on the shooting of 6-5 freshman guard Michael Redd, who is averaging 23.8 points a game. Junior forward Jason Singleton (11.3) and senior guard Carlos Davis (10.8) is also averaging in double figures.
Vanderbilt (9-1): Drew Maddux (15.8), Austin Bates (15.3) and Billy Di Spaltro (14.2) are the players head coach Jan van Breda Kolff, a Vandebilt graduate, will look to for scoring.
New Mexico State (7-3): Senior Louis Richardson, a 6-8 forward, is the key for coach Lou Henson. Richardson leads the team in scoring with a 19.1 averaging, as well as rebounding (8.9).
The Rainbow Classic has had great teams and classic games. The field in this year's 34th edition, sponsored by Outrigger Hotels, is no exception.
Rainbow Classic has hadBy Cindy Luis
share of memories
However, some of this year's entrants are better known for outcomes outside of this event. A look at some of their previous visits to the islands.
Virginia: It's still considered the greatest upset in college basketball, giving birth to the headline: "Yes, Virginia, There is a Chaminade."
In 1982, the top-ranked Cavaliers, returning from a tournament in Japan, stopped in Honolulu for some rest and a pick-up game with Chaminade. The Silverswords stunned the Ralph Sampson-led Cavs, 77-72.
Sitting at the end of the Chaminade bench that night in Blaisdell Arena trying not to nod off was 6-year-old Alika Smith, currently a senior guard for the University of Hawaii. His father, Pete, was an assistant coach for the Silverswords.
"We had so many ups and downs going into that game," Pete Smith recalled. "A couple of days earlier, we beat the University of Hawaii for the first time and then we lost to that small Texas school, Wayland Baptist.
Bart Jensen (33), shown here in an earlier game
against UC Berkeley, gives BYU help off the bench.
"It was such an emotional time. I remember Merv (Chaminade coach Lopes) sitting us under the basket at Blaisdell, asking, 'OK, what are we going to do about these guys (Virginia)'. I said I didn't know. He went down the list of their players and then our players, back and forth, comparing the matchup. He got to Ralph Sampson and then Tony Randolph. He told Tony the only difference was size, that you couldn't measure heart."
Smith, now the coach at Kalaheo High, said that game was the best of his long coaching career.
"It's hard to believe it's been 15 years," said Smith. "There was no special strategy. Our kids just played their tails off. Tony was very motivated to do well. He and Sampson had grown up in the same area. It became a personal thing for him.
"It was close all the way but when Tim Dunham caught this pass off a back screen and dunked it over Sampson... at that point of the game, our guys felt they could win. It was unbelieveable."
Virginia has since made two trips across the Pacific, finishing third in the inaugural Silversword Invitational in 1984, played in Kona. The Cavs fell to Kansas in the final of last year's Maui Invitational.
Brigham Young: BY-Who can forget the running 18-foot miracle 3-point shot at the buzzer by Tes Whitlock in 1995 that lifted the Rainbows over the Cougars, 73-70?
Yet, that isn't the game that sticks out most in the mind of Rainbow coach Riley Wallace. Neither is the 73-66 victory in the 1994 WAC Tournament final that put Hawaii into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years.
"It had to be in 1991, Shawn Bradley's freshman year," said Wallace. "They were expecting great things of him and Tim Shepherd had a great game. He's 6-5 and he's going against Bradley at 7-3. I know people would expect me to say Tes' shot but I liked the way the team worked and did things that night against Bradley. He was the best player they've had."
Hawaii won, 74-65, at the Blaisdell. Two months later, the Cougars ended the Rainbows' season in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament in overtime, 73-71.
In Rainbow Classic appearances, the Cougars have finished second (1970) and seventh (1977).
Kansas: The Jayhawks were part of the greatest field in the Classic's history, the 1992 tournament. Three of the teams that would advance to the 1993 Final Four were involved in the semifinals at Blaisdell: Kansas, North Carolina and Michigan.
The Jayhawks thrashed host Hawaii in one semifinal then went on to lose to Michigan in the title game. Last year, Kansas routed Virginia for the Maui Invitational championship as Raef LaFrentz was named the MVP.
In three other island stops, Kansas is 3-0 against Hawaii teams but 0-4 in other games. In the 1986 Rainbow Classic, the Jayhawks fell to Pitt and Ohio State before beating the Rainbows for seventh place.
New Mexico State: The Aggies came away with back-to-back third-place finishes during trips in 1986 and 1987.
New Mexico State coach Lou Henson is no stranger to Hawaii, bringing Illinois out for several Rainbow Classics. The last was in 1995 where the Illini needed three overtimes to down Hawaii in a consolation semifinal.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have never finished higher than fourth in three previous Rainbow Classics. Their best showing was in 1974 when, after being blown out by Indiana in the semifinals, they fell to Villanova, 87-86.
In 1986, Gary Williams' first season, Ohio State placed sixth by beating Kansas in overtime in a consolation semifinal then holding off Florida.
The Buckeyes finished fifth in the 1988 Maui Invitational, routing Vanderbilt. OSU came back to Lahaina in 1993, defeating Boston College for third place.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores are making their first Rainbow Classic appearance but have competed in the Maui Invitational three times. Vandy won the 1986 Maui Invitation over New Mexico, behind the MVP play of Will Perdue.
The Commodores have since finished fifth and sixth in two other Maui showings. Vanderbilt lost o Ohio State in the fifth-place game of the 1988 Maui Invitational and beat UCLA for fifth place in 1995.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers haven't fared well in their trips to Hawaii. They lost to the Rainbows in the third-place game of the 1979 Rainbow Classic and a tough draw in the 1992 event, finishing sixth.
In its one Maui Invitational appearance, Nebraska edged host Chaminade, 76-75, for seventh place.
Tomorrow: Virginia (6-3) vs. Nebraska (8-2), 5:30 p.m;. Hawaii (7-1) vs. Brigham Young (3-7), 7:37
When to Watch
Sunday: Vanderbilt (9-1) vs. New Mexico State (7-3), 5:30; Ohio State (7-3) vs. No. 2 Kansas (14-1), 8:07
Monday: Tomorrow's losers, 11 a.m.; Sunday's losers, 1:30 p.m.; tomorrow's winners, 5:07; Sunday's winners, 7:37
Tuesday: Seventh place, 11 a.m.; fifth place, 1:30 p.m.; third place, 5:07; championhship, 7:37
Local broadcasts: UH games live on KFVE-TV (Channel 5) and KCCN (1420-AM, 88.9-FM inside arena).
ESPN broadcasts: Ohio State vs. Kansas; Monday's championship semifinals; Tuesday's championship
Where: Special Events Arena.
Tickets: All-tournament packages $52. Single games may be available game day.
1997-98 Rainbow Mens Basketball Schedule