Nov. 21, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University men's basketball team departs early Saturday morning for Hawai'i hoping to relive the success it enjoyed the last time it played in Maui.
The Broncos open their regular-season Monday evening at 8:30 p.m. (Pacific) against the University of Hawai'i in the first round of the 2003 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. The two teams will face either the winner or loser of the event host Chaminade versus Villanova contest in the second round on Tuesday. Wednesday's final contest will come from the bottom half of the tournament bracket, which consists of Central Michigan, Dayton, Ohio State or San Diego State.
Santa Clara's first round game against the Rainbow Warriors will be televised live on ESPN2. Subsequent television coverage will be dictated by the team's performance in the tournament bracket. All three games will air live on the radio in the Bay Area on 1220 KSFB-AM and worldwide on the Internet at www.SantaClaraBroncos.com. Click here for more information.
The last time Santa Clara played in the Maui Invitational, a blonde-haired Canadian named Steve Nash lit up fourth-ranked and defending national champion UCLA for 19 points and the Broncos took a 78-69 win in the tournament's opener in 1996. Marlon Garnett scored a team-high 21 points as the Broncos won their first game over a top-five ranked opponent in 23 years. After dropping a 77-65 decision to Villanova, Santa Clara rebounded with a 77-71 win over Michigan State.
"It's nice to have a Steve Nash," head coach Dick Davey told reporters recently. "That surely makes it a lot easier to be successful. The last time when we played (in Maui) to open the 95-96 season, Steve was a senior. We had a chance to play UCLA who had just come off of its national championship year and we played Michigan State and Villanova. We were lucky enough to win two of those three. Those team had some great teams and great players.
"The nice thing for a school like Santa Clara is that you get a chance to play a highly respected team in a neutral setting. As Chaminade knows from years ago when they were able to beat Virginia, it makes it a lot of fun to be able to play some of the high powered teams in places where you're not just playing them at their home."
Nash is long gone, having achieved greatness as an all-star for the Dallas Mavericks and Olympic hero for Team Canada. But, his legacy lives on with a current Bronco squad that enters the tournament with one of the deepest and most talented sets of perimeter players in the program's recent history.
The unit features the much-anticipated return of junior Kyle Bailey, who missed last season due to foot and back injuries that limited him to just six appearances during the early part of the season. An all-West Coast Conference performer as a sophomore, Bailey, along with senior center Jim Howell, serves as a team co-captain and his return will provide the Bronco backcourt with an experienced floor leader and scorer.
In addition to Bailey, the Broncos are expected to see sophomore Brandon Rohe, who broke several of Nash's freshman three-point shooting records last season, transfer Doron Perkins and sharpshooting junior Ethan Rohde all vie for starting positions during the early part of the season. In addition, senior Alex Kargbo will also see time at both guard positions and Canadian J.R. Patrick will play the guard and small forward slots. Walk-on Scott Dougherty has also shown the ability to play at a high level and is expected to start at one of the guard slots in the first round against Hawai'i.
Inside, Santa Clara relies heavily on Howell, one of the more physical players in the WCC, and junior forward Jordan Legge. Sophomore forward Travis Niesen has all-league potential and Linden Tibbets could emerge as a surprise factor for the interior unit. Freshman center Sean Denison joins the program this season as an experienced member of the Canadian Junior National Team.
The Broncos face a Hawai'i team that finished 19-12 last season and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament. It returns six letterwinners and three starters for coach Riley Wallace, who has a 262-215 record in his 16th season at UH.
Despite the fact that the University of Hawai'i is located in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu and a plane flight from Maui, and that Chaminade is the official host institution, the crowd for the game is expected to consist largely of Rainbow Warrior fans.
"Negative environments can be positive too," said Davey. "Particularly from the standpoint of a team's maturing process. Our kids are smart enough to realize that we're going to be the enemy in this first game. But, I think that can be good for our team in the long run. It gets you prepared for league play where you have to go into foreign environments and try to succeed.
"I really have a great deal of respect for Riley and what he's done at Hawai'i. Knowing how solid his teams play and how efficient they are, we're going to have our hands full. We think we have a team that's capable of being respectable this year so we're looking forward to the challenge Hawai'i will present.
"I'm sure the officials aren't going to be wearing hula skirts or anything like that. So, we're going in with the idea in Maui we have a chance."
Following its trip to Maui, Santa Clara returns to the Leavey Center to host Fresno State in its home opener Saturday, Nov. 29. The Broncos wrap-up their non-conference schedule when they host the 37th annual Cable Car Classic and a preseason finale against Eastern Washington. On January 9, the WCC schedule begins with a Fox Sports televised contest against San Francisco.