The Lahaina Civic Center will come alive with the sounds of cheers, bouncing basketballs and sneakers squeaking on the hardwood floor when the Maui Jim Maui Classic, an NCAA Division I women’s college basketball tournament, tips off on Friday, Dec 14 and Saturday, Dec. 15. Now in its third year, the annual tournament will be hosted by basketballMAUI in partnership with the Oregon State women’s basketball team, which is currently ranked No. 8 in the nation. Texas A&M University (ranked No. 20) will also take the court, along with Eastern Washington University and University of California, Riverside. “As far as I know, Maui has never hosted two nationally ranked women’s teams to compete against each other, which is very exciting for basketball fans on the island,” said basketballMAUI founder Ben Prangnell.

And there will be plenty of excitement off the court, too. While they’re here on Maui, these college athletes will pay a visit to several elementary schools to underscore the winning combination of academics and athletics. “The mission of the tournament is to inspire Maui youth in their educational and athletic aspirations,” Prangnell explained. “Each team will be visiting some of our local elementary schools to participate in read-alouds with the children and spend time sharing their athletic and educational journeys and the importance of reading and education.”

It’s something Realtors® Association of Maui members Lydia Pedro and Alana Rucynski of the Top Maui Homes team of Wailea Realty Corp. have been looking forward to all year. Both serve on basketballMAUI’s board of directors; they have been involved with the all-volunteer, donor-funded 501(c)3 nonprofit organization since its inception in 2010.

basketballMAUI’s mission is to give youth an opportunity to prepare for success, both on and off the court. Every year, thousands of public and private school students participate in basketballMAUI’s summer camps, clinics and school assemblies, which are focused on basketball skills and athletic, character and leadership development. And the best part? No child has ever been excluded from basketballMAUI’s programs for lack of financial resources. In June, hundreds of youth ages 7 to 18 took part in the 9th annual weeklong basketballMAUI camp at the War Memorial Gym in Wailuku. Former and active college basketball players and coaches of all stripes (including NCAA Division I coaches) guided campers through position-specific training, personal training, life skills development and challenge groups, placing an emphasis on enthusiasm, leadership and teamwork.

“None of this would be possible without our local sponsors and volunteers to which we are so grateful,” Prangnell said. One of those sponsors is Wailea Realty Corp. A Boutique of Windermere Real Estate. “Lydia and Alana’s support alongside the Wailea Realty team since our inception has been one of the pillars to continue to see our impact and support of Maui youth grow,” he said.

Pedro has seen firsthand the positive impact of basketballMAUI and encourages all residents to consider attending this year’s Maui Jim Maui Classic. “The reason I think that people should come to this event is that these women are here to support our kids by visiting them at school, reading to them and being good role models,” she said. “We need to support them as they support our kids.”

Rucynski agrees wholeheartedly. “People should come to the Maui Classic because these ladies of college basketball have some major skills!” she said. “Their athleticism on the court is amazing and their hearts for our keiki when they visit our schools is so amazing.”

And you don’t have to be a basketball aficionado to enjoy the two-day tournament. “This is a great family-friendly weekend for all to enjoy,” Rucynski said.

Tickets for the 2018 Maui Jim Maui Classic are on sale now. Tickets are $10 per person per day. A portion of the proceeds will benefit participating elementary school libraries, basketballMAUI’s sports programs and other local nonprofit organizations. There will be two action-packed games on each day, food trucks, opportunities to win a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, and a chance to win a luxury staycation package at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. To purchase tickets, visit www.basketballmaui.com/maui-classic. For more information about basketballMAUI and its programs, visit www.basketballmaui.com. To inquire about future sponsorship or donor opportunities, email Pedro at Lydia@TopMauiHomes.com.

By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – November 10, 2018

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