Playing To Honor A Dad’s Memory

William Shakespeare once wrote, “When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”

University of Hawaii basketball player Miah Ostrowski recently gave back to his dad in front of thousands of appreciative fans, and we all cried.

Ostrowski played the game of his life against nationally ranked Utah State three days after the sudden death of his father, Damian “Kui” Ostrowski.

There were more than 6,000 people in the stands at Stan Sheriff Center that night and thousands more who watched the game on television. For those who witnessed the effort, what stood out wasn’t Ostrowski’s intensity or the 15 points, six assists and three steals he produced in 38 minutes of play.

No, what grabbed your attention was a son’s love for his father.

Kui Ostrowski died Jan. 26 of a seizure and heart failure. He was only 43. Ostrowski was an outstanding basketball player at Maryknoll, leading the Spartans to a state title in 1984 and an ILH crown in 1985. He was a warrior on the court, admired and appreciated by teammates, feared and respected by opponents. Kui passed those traits on to Miah, who had a brilliant career at Punahou.

But despite his success on the hardwood, Miah opted to play football for the Warriors even though basketball was still his first love.

This season he got the chance to play both sports. A week before his death, Kui got the chance to watch his boy play the game they both loved. His wife, Michele, says Kui was so proud.

On the day of Kui’s death, Miah was back at practice that afternoon and never thought twice about missing the game against Utah State.

“It’s what my dad would have wanted, and he put too much time and effort into me growing up with the game,” he would later say.

The reserve guard went out and had a game for the ages in Hawaii’s double-overtime loss to Utah State. The team played with emotion and rocked the house. Big-time college basketball was back in Manoa.

My son Tai-John and I were sitting a few seats from Michele and the rest of the Ostrowski family. Michele clutched an urn wrapped in aloha-print material most of the game. I explained to my son what she was holding.

Every time Miah made a big play, Michele kissed the urn. My son watched as she wiped away tears. Michele smiled at both of us. No words were needed. We both knew Kui was in the house in more ways than one. Miah knew it too.

Moments after the game, Miah sprinted upstairs to his mom’s waiting arms. They embraced and cried. You could feel their love. You could sense her pride. You could feel his father’s presence. My son reached out and grabbed Miah’s hand. My 11-year-old boy was feeling it too.

Michele quietly told me she knew Miah was going to have a big game. He later told reporters, “The biggest game of my life. A ranked team and I knew he would-n’t have wanted me to pass that up. I just went out there and I played my heart out.”

That he did. He played his heart out while giving back to his dad. I whispered to my son, “What we saw tonight was very special. Tonight Miah played for his dad.”

My son looked up and quietly responded, “I love you too, Dad.” I grabbed his hand knowing he understood. We both cried as we walked out of the arena.

Ostrowski is survived by Michele and children Miah, Raquel and Mia.

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