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Kids say the darndest things: Silverswords to beat Kansas, just ask Bovaird children

Coaches, including Georgia’s Tom Crean (far left) and Dayton’s Anthony Grant (second from left), participate in a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Maui on Sunday ahead of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. The men’s college basketball tournament starts today. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photos

KAANAPALI — Jane and Brooks Bovaird didn’t hesitate to answer a question directed to their dad, Eric Bovaird, on Sunday morning at the Hyatt Regency Maui.

“Kansas,” 9-year-old Jane Bovaird said when her father was asked, “Who are you going to beat this week?” during a one-on-one interview.

“Kansas!” 7-year-old Brooks chimed in, immediately after his older sister.

Eric Bovaird, the head coach for the Chaminade University men’s basketball team, tried his best to walk back a little bit of what his two oldest children said as he took questions at the coaches’ press conference for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, which begins today at the Lahaina Civic Center.

“My kids say Kansas, but they haven’t seen Udoka Azubuike yet,” Eric Bovaird said of the No. 4-ranked Jayhawks’ 7-foot, 270-pound center who had 28 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and three steals in 28 minutes in a win over Eastern Tennessee State on Tuesday.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo signs a basketball for free-throw contest partner Jackson Hussey of Lahaina Intermediate School on Sunday. UCLA coach Mick Cronin and Iao School’s Mason Teraoka won the contest.

“We’re hoping that we get to be in some very competitive games and have a chance to win in the end,” Eric Bovaird said, as both kids repeated their one-word answers. Blaine Bovaird, 4, was hanging out with his mother while his older siblings helped their father at the interview table.

“It’s very special, as they grow up. Before they would rather hang out in the hotel room rather than actually go to the game,” Eric Bovaird said. “Now, they’re like, ‘Wow, you’re playing Kansas. You might play Michigan State.’ So, you know, they’re very interested in basketball and they like their daddy.”

For the first time ever, the host Silverswords sat out last season’s eight-team event on Maui as part of their most recent contract for the event. They are overjoyed to be back this season — the agreement calls for the Silverswords to play on Maui every other year, while playing key games on the Mainland when they aren’t part of this field.

“It’s awesome, it’s something we cherish, it’s something we look forward to,” Eric Bovaird said. “Last year, I had the opportunity to sit back and watch how the tournament is run, see 12 great games. It makes you appreciate even more being a part of it.”

Kansas head coach Bill Self said he sees plenty of talent from the NCAA Division II Silverswords. The Jayhawks are 3-0 all-time against Chaminade, the last time being a 123-72 win here in 2015.

Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird poses for a photo with his children Jane, 9, and Brooks, 7.

“I think they’re a tremendous passing team,” Self said. “I think they are a lot better than teams we have played in the past. I know there’s no correlation because no players are the same, but they play the right way: They make the extra pass, they’re unselfish. I am very impressed watching them on tape. … We’re going to have to play fairly well.”

Self smiled when informed of the prognostication of the Bovaird children.

“You would hope that the kids feel that way,” Self said. “I’ve got a 2-year-old granddaughter that may think we can beat the Celtics or the Lakers, but I actually think they (Chaminade) can certainly give everybody in this field problems, without question, including us.”

The tournament, as always, will give teams here a chance to get a feel for who they are in the long run.

“The big thing is you’re playing like your conference tournament,” Self said. “You’ve got to pick and choose when you’re on your feet — and you want to stay off your feet as much as possible, which is harder to do in Maui than it is in Kansas City.”

UCLA coach Mick Cronin is the Pacific-12 Conference representative in the event. The Bruins are 4-1, but they arrive here off a loss at home to Hofstra.

“You have got to win games,” Cronin said. “At the end of the day, people will talk about your scheduling, but your conference commissioners try to do extra things to try to help your team’s schedule, but at the end of the day, it’s Bill Parcells: You are what your record says you are.”

Dayton coach Anthony Grant said his team is simply ready to play.

“We’re looking forward to it — it’s a great tournament, it’s a great venue, great competition,” Grant said. “Our guys are excited. We’re happy to be here. I think the biggest thing is we’ll learn a lot about ourselves with the competition that we’ve got to face. You know some things coming into the tournament that you feel like you’re good at, some things that you need to work on, and this tournament will challenge you to do that.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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Maui Jim Maui Invitational

At Lahaina Civic Center

Today’s Games

Quarterfinals

Georgia vs. Dayton, 9:30 a.m. (ESPN2)

Virginia Tech vs. Michigan St., noon (ESPN2)

Kansas vs. Chaminade, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

BYU vs. UCLA, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Tuesday’s Games

Consolation semifinals

Georgia-Dayton loser vs. Virginia Tech-Michigan St. loser, 9:30 a.m. (ESPN2)

Kansas-Chaminade loser vs. BYU-UCLA loser, noon (ESPN2 or ESPNU)

Semifinals

Georgia-Dayton winner vs. Virginia Tech-Michigan St. winner, 3 p.m. (ESPN)

Kansas-Chaminade winner vs. BYU-UCLA winner, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Wednesday, Nov. 27

Fifth-place game, 9:30 a.m. (ESPN or ESPN2)

Championship, noon (ESPN)

Seventh-place game, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

Third-place game, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

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