BYUH makes some noise under Wagner


POSTED: Friday, February 27, 2009

This column is overdue.

Yeah, should've been turned in an hour ago, but that's not what I'm talking about.

It's appearing weeks, maybe years, late - because the Brigham Young-Hawaii basketball team deserved a hearty round of appreciation long ago.

Under coach Ken Wagner, it's been the most consistent program in the state for nearly two decades. This year, the North Shore may be home to the best basketball team in Hawaii, bar none. But we'll never know for sure, because the Division I University of Hawaii Rainbows don't play the Division II BYUH Seasiders. Not even in an exhibition game.

Once, the Seasiders nearly beat the Rainbows, so the next year they scrimmaged in a closed gym. This year UH took on only Chaminade and Hawaii-Hilo in exhibitions.

Wagner doesn't blame the Rainbows for playing dodgeball.

“;They have nothing to gain,”; he says. “;If they win, it's 'So what? You're supposed to.' If they lose, it's 'What happened, how did you lose?' “;

It's gotten to the point, though, that BYUH doesn't need help from the big boys in town to get noticed.

The Seasiders are receiving some attention now that they've won a school-record 18 games in a row and are ranked third in the nation with a 21-1 record. Tonight they host PacWest rival Chaminade at the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, with a rematch tomorrow at the Blaisdell Arena.

“;We were even on ESPN for a minute,”; Wagner says. “;I got 15 calls after that.”;

The CAC is as beautiful as it is the last time I was in it, back in the 1990s, and before that, a decade earlier when District 29 basketball was all the rage. That was when Chaminade, Hawaii Pacific College (not University yet) and Hawaii-Hilo battled to the buzzer every game - and sometimes after it with fists. Small college hoops was big time in the islands, spurred by the Silverswords' slaying of Virginia.

The feisty and consistent Seasiders can never seem to get center stage. First it was UH-Hilo's success, then Chaminade's. Then HPU won a national championship.

They're overshadowed even in their own neighborhood and on their own campus. Kahuku - home of one of the nation's best high school football programs - is a few blocks down Kamehameha Highway. A couple of offices away from the basketball coaches' is Dave Porter, architect of an incomparable college tennis dynasty.

Wagner gets a little irritated sometimes with the lack of a larger following, but he understands the reasons.

“;It's a long way here from town,”; he says. “;But any basketball fan who comes to see us will enjoy it. We're up-tempo, and our team plays with emotion and unselfishly.”;

Guard Trenson Akana - the youngest of 10 siblings, including former BYUH players Brandyn (now a Seasiders assistant coach) and Jarinn (who has coached in the NBA) - says being left alone can be a good thing.

“;I've been at this school four years, and we haven't gotten any recognition,”; Akana says. “;It doesn't bother me at all. We're so used to being underground it's not a big issue. It's good not having to worry about the spotlight.”;

That anonymity may finally dissolve, however, as the Seasiders' streak continues.


Reach Star-Bulletin columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)