Prestigious college basketball tournament returns to Lahaina after two-year hiatus
The Maui Invitational has been a local institution for nearly four decades. But for the last two years, it wasn’t played on Maui.
In 2020, COVID-19 restrictions relocated the event to Asheville, North Carolina. In 2021, with pandemic concerns lingering, it was played in Las Vegas. Now, after a two-year absence, the nationally recognized college basketball tournament is coming home.
Since its inception, the Invitational has hosted an array of powerhouse programs, including five teams that would go on to win the NCAA Division I championship: Michigan in 1988; UConn in 2010; and North Carolina in 2004, 2008, and 2016.
The tournament—officially dubbed the Maui Jim Maui Invitational—is a rare chance for local hoops fans to see top-level talent in person. Since 1984, more than 250 players who competed in the Invitational were later selected in the NBA draft. That includes five No. 1 overall picks, most recently New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson. Several of the players who will hit the hardwood on the West side this year have a better-than-average shot at going pro and grabbing headlines (see sidebar).
An early-season showcase, the Invitational lacks the fanfare of larger U.S. Mainland tournaments. But it has become an important part of the college basketball slate. Late Hall of Fame basketball reporter Jim O’Connell called it, “the best in-season tournament in the country—the standard by which all others are compared.”
This year’s contest—set for Nov. 21-23 at the Lāhainā Civic Center—will feature Arkansas (which advanced to the elite eight in 2021’s March Madness tussle), along with Arizona, Cincinnati, Creighton, Louisville, Ohio State, San Diego State, and Texas Tech.
The three-day tournament culminates with the championship game on Nov. 23, along with consolation games to determine second-through-eighth places.
The Invitational traces its roots to a 1982 Oahu contest between top-ranked Virginia and Chaminade University, a little-known Honolulu school.
Chaminade defeated Virginia, 77-72, authoring one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history. “It seems like every year there’s more and more people who were at that game,” Chaminade center Tony Randolph joked in a 2018 New York Times retrospective. “There was only 3,000 [in attendance] that night, but now there’s about 80,000.”
Basking in the glow of its unlikely victory, Chaminade founded a tournament on the Valley Isle, originally called the Maui Classic. The 1,500-student school has competed frequently in the tournament, going 8-96 overall but defeating elite opponents such as Stanford and Villanova.
Today, it’s grown into a nationally recognized event—all of the 2022 Invitational games will be televised on ESPN—where top schools and athletes come to play.
“The [Invitational] strives to bring the best college basketball teams and talent to the island of Maui and set the precedent for the rest of the season,” said tournament Chairman Dave Odom. “We could not be more excited to return to our home at the Lāhainā Civic Center and show these teams the magic of Maui.”
For tickets and information, visit Mauiinvitational.com
Players to Watch
Five 2022 Maui Invitational ballers with NBA-star potential
Nick Smith, Arkansas
A 6’4” freshman with a score-first mentality, Smith was rated the No. 1 shooting guard in the country coming out of high school by ESPN. He features high on most projected NBA draft boards for 2023, so assuming his first season with the Razorbacks is successful, he’ll likely be a one-and-done collegiate athlete.
Anthony Black, Arkansas
Lauded by scouts for his unselfish play, Black is a 6’7” point guard and elite passer who can also play off the ball on the wing and rates as an above-average three-point shooter. Like his teammate Smith, he’s expected to go high in the 2023 draft with a solid freshman season.
Arthur Kaluma, Creighton
With the build and mentality of a true power forward, the 6’7” Kaluma is still refining his game, including developing a three-point shot, which is a near-requirement in the modern NBA. But all the raw tools are there for him to dominate at the college level and beyond.
Jordan Walsh, Arkansas
A versatile combo forward with a 7’3” wingspan, Walsh shines on both sides of the ball. His defensive intensity is noteworthy, as is his offensive game, particularly in the post. Along with Smith and Black, he makes Arkansas a force to be reckoned with and the favorite at the Invitational.
Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona
A Lithuanian power forward, the 6’9” Tubelis can hold his own in the post and is a strong rebounder, but truly shines with his ball-handling and passing ability. At 20 years old, his frame is still filling in, meaning he could project as anything from a fleet-footed wing to an under-the-basket big man.