Next year's Maui Classic will boast a field that includes five recent national champions, three of next season's consensus Top 10 and several of the nation's top players, plus palm trees and balmy breezes. What more could one want? Frank Burlison's <b>Frank Hoops</b> column has the scoop and more.
If your idea of a proper Thanksgiving atmosphere involves warm and salt-scented breezes, inviting beaches, pineapple adorning every meal and mini-umbrellas sitting atop your favorite beverage glass, I've got the spot for you.
It'll help if you're also up for three consecutive days of what likely will be some of the best college basketball of the non-2006 portion of the 2005-06 season.
The 2005 edition of the EA Sports Maui Invitational, to run Nov. 21-23 in the Lahaina Civic Center, certainly has more "glamour" names than in any of the event's first 21 years.
Six of the entrants – Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland and Michigan State – have won national titles, five of those (all but the Jayhawks, who beat Oklahoma in the 1988 NCAA final) since the 1994 season.
Some key underclassmen still could succumb to the temptation of possible megabucks via early entry into the June 28 NBA draft and alter things considerably.
But three of the field's teams - Connecticut (which will be No. 1 on most of the preseason Top 25s), Gonzaga and Michigan State - will be consensus choices as three of the 10 best teams in the country going into their treks to Hawaii.
You want some potential tantalizing individual matchups?
OK, how about Adam Morrison of Gonzaga vs. Rudy Gay of Connecticut, arguably the two best "small forwards" in the country next season and probable Top Five choices in the 2006 draft? And we might as well throw Maryland's Nik-Caner Medley into that best small forward mix, too.
Or, how about Paul Davis of Michigan State, possibly the best senior center next season, against Andrew Bynum of Connecticut, who will be the best freshman 7-footer in the college game? Heck, we might be able to remove the "freshman" from that tag.
What happens if you can't catch a flight off the island in time to have your Thanksgiving meal in the cozy comforts of home?
Well, there are worse ways to eat turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing (and wash it down with a Mai Tai or two) than while watching waves lap the sand just steps away.
BOUNCING AROUND THE COUNTRY
David Leitao's prime recruiting target for the Class of 2006 at the University of Virginia has to be 6-9 Vernon Macklin (I.O. Norcom High in Portsmouth, Va.). In reality, no one is ever going to be on equal recruiting footing with Duke and North Carolina in the ACC, as long the same guys occupy the head coaches' offices for those two programs. Players the caliber of Chris Paul and Julius Hodge – and Macklin – can tighten up that talent lag, though.
Florida, Miami and Florida State will continue, no doubt, to snap up most of the big names among in-Florida high school recruits. But Matt Doherty will sign quality in-state talent at Florida Atlantic.
And look for Doherty to pretty much be able to hit any recruiting hotbed anywhere and sign a player or two. He's got as many recruiting contacts, from coast to coast, as any Division I head coach.
Just a thought: Shouldn't North Carolina get some form of Big Ten Conference championship trophy? Besides knocking off Wisconsin (88-82), Michigan State (87-71) and Illinois (75-70) in the final three stops on their national title run, the Tar Heels also beat Iowa (106-92 in the Maui Invitational) and Indiana (70-63, in Bloomington) during the regular season.
Sources close to the situation said last week that Martell Webster (6-6, Seattle Prep in Washington) will enter the NBA draft pool – and that was before he scored 22 points in the Jordan Classic in Madison Square Garden Saturday night. University of Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar hasn't tossed in the towel yet, though. He signed Webster to a letter of intent in November. The most likely scenario will have five 2005 McDonald's All-Americas (Webster, 6-8 Gerald Green, 6-3 Monta Ellis, 6-1 Louis Williams and 6-9 Amir Johnson) filing early-entry paperwork by the May 14 deadline, along with prep school attendees in 6-10 Andray Blatche, 6-5 ½ Brandon Rush and 6-8 Shawne Williams. Webster and Green are the only players in the group who are on NBA's franchises' draft decision-makers' mock first rounds.
Be leery if you see any mock first rounds on Internet sites in which 6-10 senior Channing Frye of Arizona isn't listed somewhere in the lottery (top 14). He'll end up being the third 6-9 or taller college player selected on June 28 – second (behind Andrew Bogut of Utah) if Marvin Williams returns to North Carolina for a sophomore season.