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Maui Invitational: Odom ‘confident’ 2021 tourney will be on Valley Isle

Tickets being sold as usual for Nov. 22-24 event at Lahaina Civic

Chaminade University fans cheer during a Maui Jim Maui Invitational game at Lahaina Civic Center in November 2019. The men’s college basketball tournament was moved to Asheville, N.C., last year due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Looking at the present and future, Dave Odom had a great day on Wednesday.

Odom’s son Ryan Odom was just named the new men’s basketball head coach at Utah State University. With that smile on his face, the elder Odom was also contemplating a return to the Valley Isle for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

“Proud as punch, his mom and I both, we are just as proud as we can be,” said Dave Odom, the veteran tournament chairman of the Maui Invitational. “That’s a great opportunity for him. He is very, very excited, he and his family.”

Dave Odom has more reasons to smile with two solid fields set for the next two Maui Invitationals and the Lahaina Civic Center waiting and ready for the return of the event after COVID-19 concerns forced it to be moved to Asheville, N.C., in 2020.

“All of our preparations, time are spent on making sure that things are in readiness for all of our teams when they land in Kahului and then they motor on over around the island to the hotels and get ready for play,” Odom said via phone. “We’re confident that things will be all in readiness and we won’t have any trouble. If there is, we’ll deal with it but I’m very confident that we will be back in Maui in November.”

While there are clearly several questions that cannot be answered on the event’s immediate future due to the unknowns of the pandemic, tournament director Nelson Taylor said that the ticket distribution formula will go ahead as it has in the past, with booster tickets sold for each team in the event and tickets for local fans as well; on-island ticket sales are usually conducted a couple months before the event.

“We will always make sure that our ticket sales always include a plan to ensure access for our local fans on Maui and those obviously include some seats that we reserve in reserved-seating sections as well as general admission,” Taylor said Wednesday via phone. “We make sure that those are the same locations each year and that they are good seating locations for those folks.

“It’s very important to us to continue to show that support to our fan base on the island.”

Taylor pointed to the event’s Fan First Guarantee Ticket Policy that gives priority to fans who purchase travel/ticket packages first on the event website (mauiinvitational.com) with the tournament’s official travel partner, MCI USA.

If crowds are decreased in any way in the 2,400-seat LCC by local health or government officials, the limitations will be ruled on by giving priority to those who put down their deposits on their tickets first.

“Our ticket sales plan is unchanged,” Taylor said. “And obviously we’re monitoring the ongoing pandemic and we’ll make sure that we follow the appropriate protocols and have the appropriate conversations with local health officials through our planning process.

“We will communicate as quickly and as efficiently as we can if there are any changes, but right now we plan to offer (tickets) as we always have. We’re super excited to be coming back to Maui.”

The 2021 event set for Nov. 22-24 at the LCC and will include Butler, Chaminade, Houston, Notre Dame, Oregon, Saint Mary’s, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. The 2022 field was recently unveiled and will have Arkansas, Arizona, Cincinnati, Creighton, Louisville, Ohio State, San Diego State and Texas Tech when it convenes Nov. 21-23.

“We always try to have the very best and strongest fields that we can possibly have,” Odom said. “You know, we’re coming off a year where we had a good field, but the people in Maui wouldn’t know it. We had to move the tournament to Asheville — and I’ve got nothing but really good things to say about the people in Asheville — but in truth, Asheville is not Maui.”

Odom pointed to the event’s ability to hold the 2020 event amid overwhelming pandemic restrictions. He said plans are full steam ahead for the 2021 event to be held here in seven months.

The 2020 travails have taught the event organizers new ways to deal with unforeseen adversities.

“It was a really good year for us given the difficulties that we faced with the COVID and just trying to get all of the teams to stay on board,” Odom said. “I think it’s noteworthy that we were the only tournament that didn’t lose a team. We were the only one of the national tournaments that didn’t lose a team and I’m very proud of that.

“I’m also very proud and appreciative of our KemperLesnik Maui staff who worked tirelessly to keep that intact, keep all the teams intact and healthy. Always keep in mind that the student-athletes’ health and their coaches and staff were most important, but I’m also very appreciative of the grounds people in Asheville that helped us with all the testing and things that we did.”

Odom said he hopes the pandemic situation never happens again.

“There was disappointment, a major disappointment that we were not able to come to Maui and deliver what we had promised, it was really eye-opening and heartwarming to see the teams and the coaches come together and make it happen,” Odom said. “That said, when we look ahead to 2021, we do have some really good teams.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

*****

Maui Jim Maui Invitational

2021 FIELD

Nov. 22-24 • At Lahaina Civic Center

Butler, Chaminade, Houston, Notre Dame, Oregon, Saint Mary’s, Texas A&M, Wisconsin

2022 FIELD

Nov. 21-23, 2022 • At Lahaina Civic Center

Arkansas, Arizona, Cincinnati, Creighton, Louisville, Ohio State, San Diego State, Texas Tech

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