Four years ago Pasadena High boys basketball Coach Bill Duwe went to Tahiti for five weeks during the summer to help the Tahitian national teams train for the South Pacific Games.
Now the Tahitian Women's National Team has come to the United States for three weeks of training, playing and sightseeing in preparation for the South Pacific Games in December, and it is Duwe's turn to be the host.
"One of the major problems (with their program) is they are on an island and they are isolated and they do not have a lot of competition nearby," Duwe said. "It has always been a dream for them to come to the United States and train. They consider America to be the place where they can get the proper training to get ready to play the games."
Duwe is putting the 11-player squad, which ranges in age from 18 to 35, through daily two-hour practices and has arranged a schedule of 12 games. The Tahitians, who Duwe said play at the level of a good high school team, are entered in the Temple City High summer league and will also play against Azusa Pacific University and Pasadena City College.
"They may be in a little over their heads against the college teams, but that's OK," Duwe said. "It's a good test for them."
The team will stay in Pasadena through Aug. 2, after which Duwe may need a vacation. With the addition of the practices and games to his already busy summer schedule, Duwe is putting in a lot of 12-hour work days.
On a typical weekday in July, Duwe works with his Pasadena boys team from 8:30 to 10 a.m., the Tahiti nationals from 10 to noon, directs the Bulldog Basketball Camp with Pasadena City College Coach George Terzian from 1 to 5 p.m. and coaches his teams in summer league games Tuesday through Friday.
That's not to mention the four summer tournaments that his Pasadena team has played in to occupy his weekends. "It has been a monster summer for me this year," he says.
But Duwe said his experience with the Tahitians has been worth the time and effort.
"You wonder sometimes why you're doing it because you're away from your family and you could be doing other things," he said. "But there's a friendship with these people that's hard to describe. They're just the warmest people you would ever want to meet in your life."
Duwe said it has also been a good experience for the Tahitians, most seeing the U.S. for the first time.
"They still have time to shop and visit the sites," he said. "We took them to the food market the other day and they were amazed at how big and well-stocked it was. Just to see their faces light up over things we tend to take for granted is something."
There is also a possibility of a return trip to Tahiti for more coaching in a few years. But for now he will have to settle for having Tahiti here.
After consistently fielding one of the top teams in the San Gabriel Valley in the 1970s and early 1980s, Pasadena High has struggled in boys basketball in recent years.
The struggle may have hit its low point when the Bulldogs suffered through a 7-15 record last season.
But don't be surprised if Pasadena stages a turnabout during the 1987-88 season.
Under the direction of Duwe, the Bulldogs have been one of the most impressive teams in the valley this summer. Pasadena scored two of its biggest wins of the summer with upsets of CIF 5-A Division powers Mater Dei (52-51) and Serra (48-45) in the Bosco Tech Summer Hoop Spectacular two weeks ago.
The Bulldogs also stayed close to valley power Diamond Bar before falling, 67-63, in the fifth-place semifinals of the same tournament. Last weekend, playing without two probable starters, the Bulldogs finished second in the Santa Maria Summer Tournament. They lost, 50-48, to perennial power Santa Clara in the title game.
Even more surprising is that Pasadena does not have a starter taller than 6-2 and their shortest player is 5-6.
So what has caused the turnabout at Pasadena?
"We have better kids this year with more coachable attitudes," Duwe said. "That has made a big difference."
Duwe also said the addition of full-time assistant Tim Tucker, who started on Pasadena's last CIF Southern Section championship teams in 1977 and 1978, has made an impact.
"He is helping to bring back a lot of the pride and hard work in our program," Duwe said. "He makes kids want to be associated with the team."
While Pasadena is not the tallest team in the valley, it has talent with 5-6 guard Julius Coleman and 6-2 forward Idris Jones. It also has a shooter in 6-0 guard Keivin Boone.
Coleman may be the team's best shooter, having won the three-point shooting contest at the Bosco Tech tournament. He made three of five attempts in the finals after sinking all five attempts in the preliminaries and has made nearly 50% of his three-point tries during the summer season.