Arizona basketball: Seen & heard in Honolulu

2012-12-23T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:22:54Z Arizona basketball: Seen & heard in HonoluluBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 23, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Santa!

Somehow, Santa Claus had time to show up for not one, not two, but all four games of the Diamond Head Classic on Saturday.

A bigger problem was the fact that his outfit is not particularly well-suited to tropical weather.

"Hot as hell," he said.

Turns out, Santa is a Rainbow Warriors season-ticket holder (who knew?). He planted himself in the first row behind one of the baskets and carried a ESPN-friendly sign labeled "Even Santa Prefers RaiNbows."

Santa said he wanted to show support for the tournament by attending all four games, the first two of which drew sparse crowds inside Honolulu's Stan Sheriff Center.

"I flew in from the North Pole," he said. "I've got a lot of stuff in my car to give away."

His car?

Paying respects

Much of Hawaii's focus this weekend had nothing to do with sports or tourism.

The death of well-regarded Sen. Daniel Inouye, 88, last week merited, among other things, a 20-page special section about the Democrat in Friday's Honolulu Star-Advertiser, as well as another four pages of coverage Saturday.

Not only were federal and state offices flying their flags at half-mast in Inouye's honor, but so were hotels in Waikiki.

Meanwhile, President Obama, who is retreating to his Hawaii roots again for Christmas this season, praised Inouye during a memorial service at the National Cathedral on Friday. Obama said: "We remember a man who inspired all of us with his courage and moved us with his compassion, inspired us with his integrity and taught so many of us - including a young kid growing up in Hawaii - that America has a place for everyone."

Some sightseeing

Both East Tennessee State and Indiana State arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday, giving them a full two days to practice and sightsee before the games started Saturday.

The Bucs spent time at the beach and walking around Waikiki, content even though a planned snorkeling trip was canceled because of an issue with the bus driver.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," ETSU guard Jarvis Jones said. "I'm just excited to be out here."

Indiana State, meanwhile, did a beeline for Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial on Thursday.

"I definitely wanted to do that," Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. "I wanted to get the guys a sense of it. It's a moving experience."

Understated look

While many staffs of Diamond Head Classic teams wore aloha shirts that generally matched their team colors, Arizona went with a simple casual dress look.

The Wildcat staffers wore dark blue Tommy Bahama shirts. They also have light blue and a red version that they plan to wear in successive games.

Helping hand

Former guard Zane Johnson, who transferred from Arizona in spring 2009 and played his final two seasons at Hawaii, served as an unofficial consultant for the Wildcats in advance of the Diamond Head Classic.

UA trainer Justin Kokoskie, who routinely keeps in touch with former Wildcats from the past decade, called Johnson for insider knowledge of what it's like to play in Honolulu and the Stan Sheriff Center. Cramping in high-humidity areas has caused Kokoskie trouble, particularly with UA forward Kevin Parrom.

Johnson discussed "stuff like taking care of yourself and staying off your feet," Kokoskie said. "He's seen a lot of other teams come in and they walk around (Waikiki) too much. We've had very little free time."

The big number

20

UA guard Nick Johnson's new age after his birthday Saturday, though he is known for acting much older.

Quotable

"It took so long (to get here) that after it's over, I wish we could snap our fingers and be home."

Indiana State coach Greg Lansing

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