In case you don't follow ESPN 1420 on twitter (or read the newspaper or watch tv or care about sports at all), this past Saturday was ESPN 1420's 3rd (I believe) annual Sports Festival at the Blaisdell. Free to the public, there were all sorts of fun things to do (mostly for children…or in our case, child-like adults.) Photo booths, rock climbing wall, speed and quickness drills, free samples, player/coach/media personality meet and greets (something for everyone!)
Truth be told, I mostly went to meet Colt and Gib. And so to that end it was a fantastic success. Gib in particular was super open and super candid about his vision for the team both next year and in the years to come (in the midst of contract negotiations no less). It was admittedly pretty cool to see someone so clearly passionate about the program and its fans/players.
I asked specifically about the transition next year at point guard, with transfer Keith Shamburger finally eligible to play and the highly touted JC transfer Quincy Smith coming in to join him. Not that Gib would ever admit (or know this) but long suffering Hawaii fans have waited probably about a decade to get even decent point guard play. So already that's something to get stoked about.
And then there's Negus. Really that's all I wanted Gib's feedback on, the Canadian transfer from Missouri who by some miracle decided that he wanted to come out here to play ball and who was willing to sit out a season to do so. Gib stopped short of saying Negus is the best player in the program…but he got damn close. And I think that's super telling. Mostly because it's not as though UH has a bunch stiffs. Sham, Quincy, Brandon Spearman, Fotu, Standhardinger, Rozitis, all of these guys can play. So to think that Gib places him in such high regard is pretty awesome. And with the recent run of his countrymen at the top of the draft (Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins) is it going too far to say he'll be the next to follow in their footsteps?? Okay okay it probably is. Maybe I'll wait until he plays a minute to anoint him (though probably not much longer.) Anyway, things are looking up for the program. And it's about that time. I want to see an NCAA tourney berth. It's been awhile.
The unexpected highlight of my day (aside from getting to stand next to, and take a picture with Kristiana Tuaniga who towered over me) was meeting Rich Miano. The former UH coach (and current Kaiser Head Coach) was super approchable and had some incredible insight to share, both about the current status of the football program as well as remembering some of the players from his past. One story in particular stuck with me.
If you followed the program in the golden age of June Jones' tenure then you know Keani Alapa. I know Rich does. After graduating from college (and prior to becoming a hotshot attorney) Keani moonlit as a member of the HPD. And, on a particularly mischievous day in February, decided to exercise some officer discretion when he saw his former coach eating at Dukes in Waikiki. As Rich tells it, he was minding his own business when out of nowhere, an officer showed up giving him heat. "You're Under Arrest". "You have unpaid parking tickets". "I'm gonna have to take you in". Rich, of course, was dumbfounded. What parking tickets? What violations? The arrest wasn't scary as much as it was confusing. And infuriating. There's no way he should/would/could be getting arrested. And he was right. Sometimes the coach gets the player and sometimes….well you get the point.
In any case, I'd say the event was a super success. Hopefully it's a tradition that continues for a long time. I know for sure I'll be back every year that it is.