HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some of the best college basketball teams in the country, including the fourth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, gathered in Lahaina over the weekend to take part in the annual Maui Jim Maui Invitational basketball tournament.
Coach Bill Self's KU squad is joined in the invitational by Vanderbilt, Indiana, Wake Forest, St. Johns, UCLA, UNLV, and host Chaminade.
Several players taking part in the tournament, like UNLV's Steven Zimmerman and Vanderbilt's Damian Jones, are potential first-round picks in next year's NBA draft. At the Maui Invitational, which has previously hosted stars like Kemba Walker, Ty Lawson and Darren Collison, there is no shortage of top quality talent.
All of the squads that participate in the tournament, however, have at least one common goal: use the experience, the chance to bond with one another on the shores of West Maui, to help build chemistry that will last deep into what most teams hope are deep NCAA tournament runs.
"There's nobody here that has a team yet," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "Teams don't become teams when you start playing games, they become teams when you go through something, when you experience something together. I'm really hopeful that we're closer to becoming a team when we leave here."
Tom Crean, head basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, says the Maui Invitational is the perfect place to help develop trust and camaraderie.
"Ultimately it comes down to if you are going to have success, does your team truly believe in one another," Crean said. "And it's events like this that help build that."
Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning, a long-time NBA forward, says preseason tournaments like the Maui Invitational help prepare teams for the rigors of postseason play.
"This is a very good mirror of what we're going to do in conference tournament play," Manning said. Short turnaround, not a lot of prep time, not a lot of practice. And you're gonna get a chance to go up against the best of the best, so from that aspect I think it's a great tournament."
Tournament play begins Monday morning at 9:30 a.m., when Wake Forest and Vanderbilt tip-off at the Lahaina Civic Center. The Chaminade Silverswords host #4 Kansas at 4 p.m. Monday afternoon.