The No. 4 In Hawaii Basketball History
If you’re a numbers guy like I am, it’s amazing how much fun you can have looking through old media guides. I’ll admit I had forgotten about the significance of this year in the history of University of Hawaii basketball until I recalled a game from the 1993-94 season that led me to flipping through the UH men’s basketball media guide.
The moment happened 20 years ago at Blaisdell Arena, when Hawaii’s mercurial guard Trevor Ruffin, who was playing yet another one of his “unforgettable games of a lifetime,” dribbled up court in the final seconds under heavy pressure against archrival BYU and banked in an off-balance three-pointer from near the top of the key to win the game.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Jim Lea-hey was heard yelling on the TV broadcast, as the Blaisdell erupted in celebration.
That 1993-94 season was one of many memorable moments that occurred in years ending in four. In 1963-64, UH hired a lanky Hilo native by the name of Red Rocha, and then later that same year, Rocha’s team opened what would become the Blaisdell. It was known as Honolulu International Center (HIC) back then. Yes, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the building that has seen everything from Elvis Presley and great concerts to Rocha’s Fabulous Five teams and a host of spectacular high school and college contests.
Ten years later, in the 1973-74 season, the Rainbows showcased one of their greatest all-Americans ever in hot-shooting guard Tom Henderson. It was that team that set a UH record by opening the season with 11 straight wins; and then they finished the year by making it all the way to the NIT quarterfinals. After the season, Henderson was the highest UH draft pick ever – selected seventh overall by the Atlanta Hawks.
Twenty years later, the 1993-94 season was one of the most incredible roller-coaster rides in UH history. Riley Wallace’s team opened that season with three straight lopsided losses in Alaska, losing by an average of 48 points a game. By the time I caught up with the team to announce a game at the University of North Carolina, Riley wondered if he could ever turn things around. He did right there in Chapel Hill. Led by a tremendous effort by Jarrin Akana, the ‘Bows impressed even the great Tar Heel coach Dean Smith.
Then, with 7-footer Tony Maroney dominating the middle and Ruffin shooting lights out off and on throughout the year, including a 42-point outburst against Louisville, the ‘Bows raced to the WAC Tournament title and improbably into the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Syracuse in the first-round matchup, but Ruffin even got accolades from top Orangemen players after yet another dazzling shooting performance.
By the end of 1994, the ‘Bows were playing their home games at the newly opened Stan Sheriff Center. Yes, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the building originally named simply UH Special Events Center.
Ten years ago, the 2003-04 season saw another milestone. Michael Kuebler was a coach’s dream, and he led the ‘Bows with his deft three-point accuracy. That Hawaii team, which also starred Haim Shimonovich, Jeff Blackett and Phil Martin, won 20 games and earned the ‘Bows their only road win ever against a nationally ranked team when Hawaii upset No. 25-ranked Utah State in the first round of the NIT. Kuebler and his teammates then knocked off powerful Nebraska.
May the “Fours” be with you, and the ‘Bows, too!