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KU, Illinois to play exhibition game in Champaign for Maui relief

The contest slated for Oct. 29 at Illinois' State Farm Center will mark Bill Self's return to his old home

3 min read
Kansas coach Bill Self, shown here at summer camp at Allen Fieldhouse, and Illinois coach Brad Underwood have arranged to host an exhibition game in Champaign, Illinois in late October to help aid the Maui relief efforts in the aftermath of the wildfires that damaged the island. [Chance Parker photo]

Already scheduled to play at the Maui Invitational this November, the Kansas men’s basketball program is getting a jumpstart on helping the Hawaiian island after devastating wildfires destroyed much of the city of Lahaina where the tournament is played.

On Friday, KU announced plans to turn its so-called secret scrimmage with Illinois into a full-on exhibition game, with the money raised going to benefit the Maui relief efforts via the Hawaii Community Foundation Maui Strong Fund.

The KU-Illinois game will be played on Oct. 29 in Champaign, Illinois, with KU coach Bill Self making his return to the city and school he coached at for three years before coming to Kansas.

Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m. central and the game will be shown on the Big Ten Network.

The exhibition game was announced by KU via a video on Twitter that featured Self and current Illini coach Brad Underwood working out the details via a Zoom call.

“For decades, the Maui Invitational and the city of Lahaina have been very important to college basketball and our thoughts and prayers go to that entire community as they recover from such a tragic event,” Self said in a release announcing the scrimmage. “Brad and I discussed how our private scrimmage could become an exhibition game to raise money to benefit the so many affected by the recent catastrophic fires in Maui. We both felt this would be a great way for our programs to create awareness to help this cause.”

Added Underwood: “It is heartbreaking to see the loss of life and devastation from the fires that have ravaged Lahaina. The Maui Invitational is an integral part of college basketball, and we are thinking of everyone on the island of Maui who have felt the impact of this tragedy. Bill and I talked immediately about how we could come together to help, and turning our closed scrimmage into a charity exhibition is a way we can use our sport to make an impact. The spotlight of this game, heightened by Bill’s return to Champaign, should raise meaningful dollars that will go directly help the community of Lahaina.”

This is far from the first time that Kansas basketball has used its high visibility and platform to aid relief efforts. In October of 2017, KU and bitter rival Missouri renewed their Border War series for one game for the first time in five years when they played in Kansas City to aid hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The Jayhawks won that game and the two schools raised nearly $2 million for the decimated island territory.

There has been no official word about any changes to the 2023 Maui Invitational, which is slated for late November at the Lahaina Civic Center. Some reports have indicated that both the gym and the hotels along Kaanapali Beach where the teams typically have stayed survived the fires. Other reports from Hawaii TV news have said both the island and Chaminade University officials, who technically host the event, are still assessing the feasibility of having the 2023 event.

In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maui Invitational was moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina. A year later, the annual Maui event was moved to Las Vegas.

“This upcoming season will be the sixth time my teams have participated in this event,” Self added. “The people of Maui have always made our stay a lifelong highlight. This is a small way we can help a community that has been so good to so many for so long.”

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