My dilemma today is, well, not even a matter of choice.
I’m one person. There are two great boys basketball tournaments entering their finals tonight. I can’t clone myself. So there it is. My editor has assigned me to one site and there I will go.
If I had to go to the other tourney, it would be the same pain. Can’t be in two places in one time. At least, this side of Star Trek transporters.
But the anticipation of great championship games — potent El Toro (Calif.) versus No. 3 AOP at Na Menehune Holiday Classic, and underdog Kailua against surging sixth-ranked Kamehameha-Hawaii in the St. Francis/Merv Lopes Classic — led me to another thought. Though the Merv Lopes Classic’s girls tourney also has a final tonight (No. 6 Mid-Pacific vs. Division II power Maryknoll), I’m starting to wonder … where are all the girls basketball tournaments?
Sure, girls season began way early, Nov. 1. Tournaments were played that month. But not a single tourney bothered to let us know when they were being played. Maybe they didn’t want media coverage. My guess? They were so busy with tryouts, tight practice schedules and cramped gyms (varsity boys, varsity girls, JV boys, JV girls and, in some instances, Intermediate teams) that informing media about their tournaments was an afterthought.
It happens. But how about this: shouldn’t the girls have a ton of holiday tournaments just like the boys? After all, the ILH and OIA schedules were flexible enough to accommodate longstanding tourneys like the ‘Iolani Classic, Na Menehune Holiday Classic, and now, the Merv Lopes Classic. There are other tourneys that were played in early December, but the gist of what I’m getting to is, where are the girls’ holiday tournaments?
In 2007, when Jill Nunokawa successfully steered Hawaii girls high school basketball out of the spring and into the winter — to be in line with the boys — the payoff was supposed to be equal exposure to college recruiters through sheer timing. More tournament action here and on the continent for the best girls teams. More scholarship offers.
I can tell you without a single iota of doubt, none of the above have happened. I can also tell you that there aren’t more than five people who have seen more girls basketball in the past 20 years than me. Not bragging, certainly — some of you jaded boys hoops fans will consider me a masochist for saying it. But scholarship offers to Hawaii’s hoopsters have almost always been about summer tournaments on the mainland. Las Vegas. Oregon. More recently, the connection to Nike’s Elite teams for Shawna Kuehu (Punahou) and Maiki Viela (Lahainaluna) thanks to basketball coach and lifer Mike Taylor.
Tournaments? Hardly a one in holiday season. Local teams traveling to the mainland for tournaments? Nada, not this year. The payoff for moving girls basketball to the winter? Crowded facilities, inadequate practice time and, as several coaches have told me over the past week, shortened time for kids trying out for teams. Fair, right? Yeah. You bet. Nobody saw this coming. Really. Except me, most of you and a former baller from the pre-Title IX days.
I don’t doubt the heart that Nunokawa had when she began pushing hard with her proposal decades ago. In times like these, however, the tradeoff hasn’t worked. Boys and girls are equal, all right … equally squished into small facilities that were not built to handle two varsity teams and two JV teams all at the same time. Even Maryknoll, with its pristine, brand-new facility, is crunched for time. The girls varsity team practices in the early morning — 6 a.m. — to make up for lost time and shortened practices during the afternoons.
None of the players complain. They just want to play. I just wonder if a better solution is out there. Your kids deserve a little better.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser