Who needs the continental U.S.?

By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

From the Booth

To say both of the Arizona basketball teams are off campus this week would sort of be an understatement. Neither team is even in the continental U.S.

While men's basketball is off competing in paradise (Hawaii), women's hoops takes its game to Alaska, which doesn't exactly scream "fun in the sun" at you.

Both clubs are competing in corporate-sponsored tournaments - the men in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, the women in the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout.

As the men complete their first-round matchup with Kansas in Maui (Lahaina, more specifically), 13 athletes on the women's team made the first trip of their young lives to America's Last Frontier.

"I've never been to Alaska," said sophomore guard Jessica Arnold during her team's media day. "And the time we're going, it's going to be all daylight." (I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Jessica, but the all-daylight Alaska comes during the summer - I can't wait to see what she thinks of daylight for less than seven hours a day.)

So two teams, two locales. One practicing in a gym on an island 2,903 miles away from campus, surrounded by palm trees and waves, another practicing in a gym covered in snow 2,654 miles away surrounded by snow and more snow.

The difference? I suppose you could say none: both are indoors, comfortable within the confines of a gymnasium. Both teams practicing when they aren't playing.

With the men's win over last night, the Wildcats opened the 2005-06 campaign 1-0. The women's record? 1-0. See? Alaska and Hawaii aren't so different. (You can ski in both states!)

Two teams, both 1-0, both practicing indoors - and both with the potential to go skiing.

Still don't buy the connection? Me neither. Back to the differences (for a while).

While Hawaii is the greatest place on Earth, Alaska is the coldest place on Earth (not really, but it sounded better).

Alaska features reindeer, Hawaii features "Is it raining, dear?" (90 percent of the time, "no" is the response.)

Even the caliber of opponents at these tournaments is dissimilar: Four top-12 national powers grace the men's field in Michigan State, Connecticut, Gonzaga and, of course, Arizona.

The women's slate? Central Connecticut State, host Alaska-Anchorage, Furman and the Cats.

Then again, we're missing the entire reason the women traveled to Alaska: Senior guard Natalie Jones hails from Anchorage. I checked the men's roster 14 times, and no one grew up even remotely close to Maui.

For Jones, who won three Alaska state championships in high school, she gets the chance to play in front of dozens of fans made up of family and friends, in the process likely receiving dozens of hugs and a few home-cooked meals.

The closest thing anyone on the men's team will likely get are high fives from the dozens of rich alumni who followed the team to Maui and room service lackeys - not that they're complaining.

Both locales have their pros, but both also have one definite con: Thanksgiving away from the folks.

While most students get the chance to return home for the holiday, these 28 athletes will be busy competing. (The women's championship game is at 10 p.m. tomorrow, and the men will also have a game tomorrow regardless of where they finish.)

But we've heard it all along, Wildcat athletics is a family, so who better to spend Thanksgiving with if not your folks? (Even if six hours of it comes on an airplane.)

Before you start to feel too sorry for them, remember that the athletes are doing what they love in two of the most remote places on Earth. Sure, there's practice, but there's also the activities in between (beaches for the men, dog sledding for the women).

So, are the two states comparable? Definitely. With a little tweaking, you'll see that Hawaii can actually become Alaska.

The "H" in Hawaii obviously stands for "hot" - no, not the temperatures, which will be in the 70s but for "Hot Sauce" Hassan Adams. A brand of hot sauce sold in the Southwest is "Ass Kickin' Hot Sauce." Thus, the "H" in Hawaii becomes an "A:" "Aawaii."

From here, it just gets easier. The first "A" undoubtedly stands for "Aloha," which everyone knows means "hello" as well as "goodbye" in Hawaiian. And generally, after someone says goodbye, what do they do? Leave: "Alwaii."

"W." This could be Wa'a ("canoe") or Wiki wiki ("quickly"), but I'm going to settle on Wahine, Hawaiian for "female," "girl" or "woman." And the women's tournament will be hosted by Alaska-Anchorage. Two for the price of one: "Alaaii."

The second "A" is quick and easy: Akamai is Hawaiian for "smart": "Alasii."

The first "I?" I'a, Hawaiian for "fish." The native Alaskan Inupiaq's equivalent? Iqaluk, qaluk and aqaluk. Notice that each word ends in "K:" "Alaski."

The final "I" unquestionably isn't a letter at all, but instead a Roman numeral: I, for the first time both Arizona teams were playing out of the continental U.S. at the same time: Alaska.

And that, my friends, is how Hawaii and Alaska are the same in the end. Whether one Arizona team follows the other this week in their respective tournaments remains to be seen.

Ryan Casey is a journalism junior and the sports director at KAMP Student Radio. His radio show can be heard Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 1570 AM or at www.kamp.arizona.edu.