This past season’s University of Hawaii basketball team, led by Anthony “AC” Carter and Alika Smith, was often compared with the Rainbows’ “Fabulous Five” team of the early 1970s, which was the only UH team to ever make the postseason NCAA Tournament.
The debate as to which was the better squad will go on until the next millennium. Among these two heralded teams, Kalaheo High graduate Smith was the only starter who was born in Hawaii.
Carter, Micah Kroeger, Eric Ambrozich, Michael Robinson, Erin Galloway from the 1998 squad, and Jerome Freeman, Dwight Holiday, Bob Nash, John Pennybacker and Al Davis of the Fabulous Five were revered by local fans. But they were “adopted” heroes, players who had developed their court skills on the Mainland and, with the exception of Pennybacker — who enrolled at UH after a stint with the U.S. Air Force — were all products of junior colleges.
Some fans have wondered which was the last successful Rainbow cage team that featured real, home-grown talent. A recent reunion of five players, who good-naturedly refer to themselves as “The Forgotten Five” brought back memories of nearly five decades ago.
The 1952-53 University of Hawaii basketball team featured five starters who blended height, grace, power, speed, ball handling and shooting ability into a formidable foe for its collegiate, military and civilian opponents. It was a time when the Rainbows were an independent team, playing a mixed schedule in Hawaii and making an annual road trip against tough Mainland college teams.
Tommy Yasuhara (6-0) and Al Manliguis (6-0) from Hilo High, Willie Lee (6-5) and Fred Furukawa (6-4) from Farrington High and Harvey Lee (6-2) of St. Louis — the starting members of the “Forgotten Five,” the last of the successful UH teams featuring “all-local boy” starters.
Their UH career wins, which covered the early 1950s, included as their college “victims” Southern California, Oregon State, Memphis State and Pepperdine.
“In those days, UH played in an old gym located close to the intersection of University Avenue and Dole Street, at the old Civic Auditorium on King Street and at Bloch Arena in Pearl Harbor,” remembers Tom Yasuhara, one of the team’s leading scorers. In addition to some games here against visiting college teams, UH played the military teams and in the University Invitational Conference.
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