THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Lanaki Apele will be bringing a few extra guests home for Thanksgiving this year.
The Cal Lutheran men's basketball team is traveling to Hawaii this week to participate in the Surf's Up Classic in Honolulu.
It means CLU's two Hawaii natives — Apele and Mike Palmer — will be home for the holiday.
Apele's mother volunteered to make Thanksgiving dinner for the entire travel party at his aunt's house.
She will likely need a few extra chairs and plates to accommodate the 15 players, five coaches, one trainer, one sports information director and various other family members.
"My mom likes to do stuff for my friends and teammates, so when coach told her about this trip she just offered," said Apele, a freshman point guard. "Instead of having to take us out and spending a lot of money for a good meal, she is going to cook. Her stuffing is the best."
Palmer, a junior guard, made the same trip with CLU two years ago when he was a freshman.
"It was really good for the team to go experience the culture out there," Palmer said. "It's a good break from school with all the midterms and really relaxing. I got to take a few of my teammates out surfing and paddleboarding. It's not a vacation because we go out there to win two games, but it's a nice break."
Apele and Palmer knew each other before becoming teammates this season at Cal Lutheran. They played against each other once in high school.
"Fortunately we won and I helped with that," Apele said. "So every time we talk about high school basketball, I always tell him how we beat them, which is kind of fun."
Palmer didn't let the loss prevent him from helping lure Apele to CLU.
Once the CLU coaches told him they were recruiting Apele, Palmer called him and guided him through the process.
"He is a great player and I thought he could help the team and it's good to have someone who knows what you are going through being so far from home," Palmer said. "We get homesick and sometimes we make Hawaiian local food."
Apele is eager to surf in the warmer Hawaiian water again, and play in familiar territory.
"It will be good to go back there and show them how much I've improved since the last they have seen me," Apele said. "Just to be around friends and family at this time of year feels great."
Although the every-other-year trip to Hawaii didn't influence their decisions to attend CLU, Apele and Palmer are grateful for the opportunity.
"It would be really hard to make it home for Thanksgiving otherwise," Palmer said. "I am just really happy to go back because I miss it when I'm away for a while."