EVERYONE familiar with Ss. Neumann-Goretti High's basketball program knows Danny Stewart can soar off hardwood.
Yeah, but can he slide across water?
Look as if we'll never find out, folks.
Tomorrow at roughly 7 a.m., Stewart and the rest of the Saints - and that includes coaches and some family members - will fly out of Philly bound for Hawaii.
They'll return Dec. 24 after participating in the Iolani Prep Classic, a 16-team tournament featuring a mixture of island squads and national powers.
The way the tourney is structured, visiting teams get to do more than merely play basketball. That still doesn't mean Stewart, a 6-6, 200-pound center/forward bound for Rider, will spend his down time frolicking in the wet stuff.
"I'm not a water guy. I'll stick to basketball," he said. "I'm OK with snow. I like that, actually. Just not big on water. I'll look at it, but that's about it."
And then you have Mustafaa Jones, a 6-1, 160-pound senior wing guard bound for Hartford.
"Yeah, I'm going to give surfing a try," he said. "Why not? I'll try anything once. I have pretty good balance, so I think I'll be fine doing that. Looking forward to it."
Stewart and Jones talked last night in South Philly after N-G opened the Catholic League season with an 82-43 pasting of Lansdale Catholic.
The Blue Division gets started earlier, because it features nine teams, as opposed to the eight that compose the Red Division. But this game was moved up even further because of the Saints' upcoming journey.
As you might imagine, excitement reigns.
"This trip is all we've been talking about," Stewart said.
Added Jones, "We've been talking about it since we came back to school this year."
Matter of fact . . .
"I was talking about it to Danny when we were sitting on the bench," Jones said, referring to the late-moments portion when the deep subs were playing. "He said it's going to rain a lot over there."
Coach Carl Arrigale said Nike representatives had been nudging him for several years about taking the Saints to Hawaii. This year makes sense most of all because the team includes four D-I signees; the others are guards Tony Chennault (Wake Forest) and Tyreek Duren (La Salle).
"This was also our best chance to raise funds," Arrigale said. "We have some good people associated with the program. The plane tickets cost roughly $800 apiece. Altogether, we had to raise about $14,000. You're talking lotteries, poker nights, beef-and-beers . . .
"The only bad thing is that I won't be able to take my family. Too close to Christmas. Too much going on."
Meanwhile, the family of sub forward Mark Squilla will darn near stage an occupation.
"Mark's parents and his three sisters are going," Arrigale said. "Tyreek's parents are going, too."
In the game, Stewart uncorked three ferocious dunks en route to 11 points (his soph brother, Derrick, also had one), while Jones had nine points and three assists. Chennault totaled 19 points and three apiece of assists and steals. With La Salle coach John Giannini nodding his approval early and often, Duren mixed 18 points (two treys) and three assists. The other starter, junior guard Lamin Fulton, fueled the get-it-and-go approach with eight steals.
Lansdale's leaders were Mike Barr in points (17), Pat O'Hara in rebounds (nine) and Alex Kirk in assists (three).
Danny Stewart has traveled to Tennessee and Canada for family vacations and to California for AAU ball, but Hawaii will be a first.
"I'm looking forward to having fun with my teammates," he said. "It's going to be a good bonding experience. I don't know how much time we'll have to ourselves, but we'll make the most of it."
Stewart said his mother thought hard about making the trip, then decided against it.
Was he hoping she'd make it?
"Half and half," he kidded.
Jones is ready to embrace the entire experience.
"You have to be excited about doing something you've never done," he said. "In the basketball part, we play a team from Hawaii in the first round. So just that is going to be interesting, because I'm sure they play a different style.
"We'll have to play hard and stay focused the whole time. It'll just be us. We won't have our fans there to get us excited and give us support."
One item on today's docket for assistant John Mosco will be a call to Dennis Seddon, the former Roman Catholic coach who several times took teams to Hawaii for the same tournament.
"Dennis offered to talk to John about the ins and outs," Arrigale said. "Extra things you can do over there. How to budget your time. How to deal with the time change. Keeping your legs fresh. Maybe we'll go visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. That would be an interesting experience."
The trip could be even more memorable if someone tosses Danny Stewart into the water. *