LAHAINA - It's a slam dunk for West Maui. The game of basketball is flourishing. From the EA Sports Maui
Invitational to the Lahainaluna High School program, basketballMAUI camps and clinics, and the West Maui Youth Basketball League, it is the same story.
The level and quality of play, participation and overall development has never been greater. Off the court, fan and sponsor support has grown to match.
Duke’s Ryan Kelly reaches above Tyshwan Taylor of Kansas to block a shot. Kelly was named MVP of the 2011 EA Sports Maui Invitational.
"It is very much a team relationship between the game and the community," said Dan Williams, as he prepared to host the third annual Lahainaluna Invitational this week at Lahaina Civic Center.
This year's tournament features 18 high school boys teams; up from eight last year.
"It's partly because of the improving economy, but also because of the reputation and exposure we're receiving," said Williams, citing national television coverage of the recent college event and the natural appeal of Maui as main selling features.
"We couldn't ask for better advertising."
That statement is shared by others.
"It's a win-win situation," said Michael Jokovich, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, host hotel for the Maui Invitational.
"The tournament is now a staple for Maui... it creates a great buzz on and off the island. We work hard to ensure the visiting teams, fans, boosters and media
enjoy a true aloha experience and want to return."
KemperLesnik, a Chicago-based award-winning public relations, event management and sports marketing agency has managed the EA Sports Maui Invitational since 1990.
"The EA SPORTS Maui Invitational is the premier early-season college basketball tournament, and the Lahaina Civic Center has proved to be the ideal location for this event," said Senior Vice President Tom Valdiserri.
"The execution and growth of the EA Sports Maui Invitational is the collaboration of many people from Maui to the Mainland - Chaminade University, EA Sports, ESPN, community organizations and other local Maui officials."
The continuation of the event is good news for local businesses, such as official food supplier CJ's Deli & Diner and Comfort Zone catering.
"Obviously it helps the bottom line, but I also receive great exposure, too... I recently made two wedding bookings as a result," said Chef Christian Jorgensen.
He added that it is important to share this success with the community.
"You must give before you can receive... I am all about helping the schools, church and especially underprivileged children," he said.
With this in mind, Jorgensen and other community-minded companies have developed a close working relationship with, and in sponsorship of, local basketball programs.
That support has helped create awareness and generate increased interest and involvement. This season, more than 500 children ages 5-13 and 30 coaches will participate in the West Maui Youth Basketball League.
For many, it will be an eventual stepping stone to the Lahainaluna program, which, not by coincidence, has become a perennial power in the Maui Interscholastic League.
There are now more Luna players than ever before going on to play collegiate basketball.