POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
Watching him play, you wouldn't know anything was wrong.
Same hustle. Same court vision. Miah Ostrowski masked his inner anguish by doing what he knows best, what his father knew best — competing.
Both wouldn't have it any other way.
Damian "Kui" Ostrowski, a former basketball state champion and player of the year at Maryknoll, died early yesterday morning after suffering seizures and heart failure overnight. He was 43.
"I couldn't ask for a better father figure," Miah Ostrowski said.
Measured among even the most stoic of performances, what happened next was amazing. No more than a handful of hours later after suddenly losing his lifelong coach, Miah returned to the court for Hawaii men's basketball practice.
SERVICE INFORMATION» Feb. 12 at Central Union Church. Visiting is 6 to 7:30 p.m., with service to follow
» To help the Ostrowski family with service costs, make checks payable to The Damian K. Ostrowski Memorial Fund and drop off at any Bank of Hawaii.
"He basically taught me everything I know about any sport," Miah Ostrowski said. "He dedicated a lot of time, you know? He made me the player I am today, for sure."
An important player for the Rainbow Warriors, Ostrowski crossed over from the UH football team and became a vital part of the UH rotation. Before yesterday's practice, UH coach Gib Arnold asked Ostrowski if he wanted to take time off.
Nope, said the former Punahou standout without hesitation. He bottled up his emotions and hammered through.
"That's one of the beautiful things of sports. It can be a release from reality," Arnold said. "I absolutely love the kid and love having him on this team. ... You don't get that good a kid without strong parenting, and his parents have done a great job of raising him. Who he is is a reflection of his father."
They may not have had the same games — Kui was a 6-foot-1 power forward, while Miah is a lithe 5-9 point guard — but they were both imbued with grit, said Kui's former Maryknoll coach, Tony Sellitto, who coached the 1984 state champs.
"Kui was a hammer. He wasn't afraid of man nor beast nor me nor anybody," Sellitto said. "He was just a tough kid. ... He'd go after every loose ball, and I think that's where Miah gets a lot of his toughness. That's where he gets a lot of his cleverness from, his dad."
Kui, a former electrician who overcame lesser seizures in recent years, was overjoyed to watch Miah break into the Rainbows' rotation as the backup point guard and get meaningful minutes in wins over Fresno State and San Jose State at the Stan Sheriff Center last week.
"He was very happy with what he saw, and he was excited, cheering," said Kui's wife, Michele, who graduated from Maryknoll with him in 1985. "He was proud of his son, of his two girls (Raquel and Mia). He had just really a heart of gold. How Miah is, that's how he was. Well liked, fun."
The prospect that his dad wouldn't get to see him play again, Saturday against Western Athletic Conference title favorite Utah State, hit Miah hard. It was worse when the 21-year-old considered his little sisters, ages 17 and 9, growing up without their father.
"That's what hurts the most," Miah said. "He can't be there for them. I was fortunate to grow up and have him. ... I was trying to be like him growing up."
Damian "Kui" Ostrowski