Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors ‘Go Live’ Again with Annual Tip-Off Banquet

The late great Marvin Gaye was right: Ain’t nothing like the real thing.

After a two-year hiatus, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball annual preseason “Tip-Off!” banquet returned live to the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center on Tuesday evening, to the delight of the team and a sold-out crowd of at least 300 or more of its most loyal supporters. The sold-out event, which featured both a live auction with players encouraging the bidding plus a silent auction, is expected to be the most successful one to date with well over $100,000 in proceeds. The money raised will help benefit the Coach’s Fund, which provides for the players’ health and nutrition, education (e.g. summer school tuition), recruitment and retention.

Head coach Eran Ganot said beyond the money raised, the lively and entertaining event provided excitement for the upcoming season and an opportunity for the team and its supporters to show appreciation for each other.

“It’s significant, you could feel it from the crowd that was here, you could feel the appreciation from our guys, our staff,” Ganot said. “I’ve said it (before), I think it’s one of the best in the country. It’s really hard to get back to the momentum we had the last time we were able to have this in person in 2019, but despite not having it for a year (2020), and then having it in a virtual format (last year), it came back and was better than ever. That’s a credit to the kids, obviously, to our administration, to the Tip-Off committee, to (Arena manager) Rich Sheriff and his staff … I could go on and on and on. I mean, there’s a lot of things that have to happen. It was a very positive, feel-good event, you’re celebrating the start of your season, you’re introducing your players and staff to this great community, and then checking a box in regards to great programs have events like this, and we do.

“For me, to be able to sit back and watch it come together, and then watch it come to fruition is overwhelming.”

After a welcome by emcee Kanoa Leahey and buffet dinner, the formal program started with a panel discussion on-stage with the UH freshmen, other newcomers including assistant coach Rob Jones, returning players and then Ganot. That was followed by a live auction conducted by Leahey, with the players spread throughout the room to help him locate the highest bidders.

The prizes included a suckling pig dinner for 40 people sponsored by Don Murphy of Murphy’s Bar and Grill that raised about $2,500, a “Big West Conference/Los Angeles Lakers experience” getaway package that went for $4,100, and a 2023 Final Four package that drew a top bid of $4,700.

As the bids went up first by $500 increments, and then $100 per step, players on both sides of the room showed great enthusiasm and excitement, as did the entire audience.

“It was actually really a great experience for me, and the other guys as well,” said senior forward Kamaka Hepa, who transferred from Texas prior to last season. “I know we all had a great time, it was a lot of fun. Overall, I think it was a successful thing, and I think we were able to build really great relationships with the people who support our basketball team. I think that ultimately was the goal of what the event was for.

“It opened my eyes more to the support that the UH men’s basketball team does get from the State of Hawai’i, and the people here actually have a genuine care for us, and they want to support us. It just adds more fuel to the fire, and I’m even more excited to get started this year.”

Hepa said there was a similar event at Texas, but that one did not quite feel as personal.

“The people I was able to talk to (Tuesday), it felt like real relationships were being built,” Hepa said.

For junior guard Noel Coleman, who is in his third year at Hawai’i after transferring from San Diego, the event was an eye-opener as well.

“I’ve never even seen something like this, never heard of something like this,” Coleman said. “My freshman year at San Diego, we didn’t have something like that. So to be part of such a big event, I’m really grateful.”

Senior wing Samuta Avea, who entered the program as a freshman in 2017, said Tuesday’s Tip-Off was as good or better than any in the past.

“It’s definitely something that will carry over into the season,” Avea said. “I think there was a lot of excitement for everybody to see each other again, with 100 percent attendance. It’s something that is very overwhelming, hearing the amounts that are being donated to our program. More than anything, we’re just thankful that they’re able to help us out and support the team.”

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