Aloha From Hawaiian Paradise of Maui

Nov. 22, 2004

Maui, Hawaii - It has been voted the 'Best Island in the World' by readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine, and there is no dispute. It has been called a Hawaiian paradise and again there is no dispute. It is the island of Maui where the Stanford basketball team is spending nearly one week, including Thanksgiving, at the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Its major industries include tourism, sugar, pineapple, cattle and diversified agriculture. Currently, it is the off-season on the island of Maui which means there are few tourists which creates a laid-back, stress-free environment, temperatures in the low 80's, and a warm, tropical breeze off the Pacific Ocean.

However for the Cardinal basketball team, it is all busy on an island where the team will play three games in three days starting on Monday (11/22/04, 6:30 p.m. ht) against Tennessee in the opening round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

This is Stanford's third trip to the Maui Invitational (1987-88 and 1992-93). First year head coach Trent Johnson said this year's tournament is like playing in the (NCAA Tournament) Elite Eight.

'This is a tough tournament with great teams,' said Johnson. 'I'm trying to keep the kids relaxed, yet we can't lose focus with the environment (Maui) like this.'

The tournament field, including Stanford and Tennessee, features North Carolina, Louisville, Texas, Iowa, Brigham Young and Chaminade.

The Cardinal team left Saturday morning and spent the entire day traveling to Maui. After an elaborate dinner party at a nearby resort hotel, Stanford finally checked into his own hotel Saturday night to get some much needed rest after winning their season opener the night before with a 93-83 overtime victory over USF at the Pete Newell Challenge in Oakland.

Sunday (11/21/04) started early for Johnson. Johnson attended an early morning press conference (8 a.m.) at a nearby resort hotel with the scenic crystal-blue Pacific Ocean in the background on a warm, picture-perfect day.

'I think the players are in an adjustment mode in terms of their new roles,' said Johnson. 'Last year, Chris Hernandez distributed the ball to people like Matt Lottich and Josh Childress. This year, Hernandez will be asked to score more. Another example, Matt Haryasz will also have a lot more opportunities to score. We'll have some other slight changes, but basically we'll have the same system that that has been in place and that has been successful in past years. Another aspect is that we will have to remain injury free.'

The Vols will be playing in their first game of the season against Stanford. The Vols return all five starters on a team that is expected to be a contender in the SEC.

'I have a lot of respect for Tennessee,' said Johnson. 'I liken them to Georgia Tech (which went to the NCAA Final Four last year). They are a balanced team with an excellent coach. Their perimeter game is excellent, and they have an inside presence.'

Tennessee head coach Buzz Peterson is impressed with the Stanford program. 'I have a lot of respect for Stanford,' said Peterson, who is entering his fourth season at Tennessee. Stanford is a big team inside. Dan Grunfield, who we tried to recruit to Tennessee, is off to a great start while Chris Hernandez is an exceptional player.'

After the press conference, Johnson participated along with the seven other head coaches in a free throw shooting contest with children who live in the area. Johnson, who played at Boise State in the late 1970's, was paired with Rachel Rickard, a student at nearby Lahaina Intermediate School. Johnson proudly hit four of five three throws to help the team finish in third place behind Tennessee and Louisville.

The Cardinal assistant coaches (Eric Reveno, Tony Fuller and L.J. Hepp) spent most of the day preparing scouting reports on each of the teams in the tournament. Also on the trip is the Cardinal basketball support staff including Donny Guerinoni and JT Batson.

Also on Sunday, the team got in some much needed sleep, studied, and then practiced later in the day at the Lahaina Recreation Center. After practice, the team attended a banquet along with the seven other schools.

Stanford is playing its first seven games on the road while Maples Pavilion is nearing completion on a $30 million renovation project. After the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Stanford travels to Santa Clara for a game on Nov. 28 (7:00 p.m.). The Broncos are currently 3-1 following their 77-66 victory over North Carolina at the Pete Newell Challenge. Stanford's first home game is Dec. 18 against UC Davis.