Hope and Hoops in Hawaii

Posted: December 1, 2011

 Ben Prangnell loves people and basketball.

The Caronport High School graduate is blessed with a job that incorporates both of these . . . in Hawaii.

Prangnell has spent the last 11 years working on the pastoral staff of Hope Chapel in Kihei, Maui. He also is president of Basketball Maui, a non-profit organization founded last year, which provides basketball camps for kids on the island.

“My heart was to make the opportunity (of camp) available to all the kids of the island,” he said. “Our mission is to provide Maui’s youth with world-class basketball instruction paired with character and leadership development.”

Prangnell’s passion for basketball started in his youth. In Grade 12 he played on the 1998 CHS basketball team, coached by Gib Hinz, that went on to become the 3A Boys provincial champs.

“There’s a lot of bad basketball coaches out there right now,” Prangnell stated. “(They) use criticism, guilt, and shame and they have no basketball resume´. (Gib Hinz) is an All-American who uses encouragement and biblical motivation. That is training I can use my whole life!”

Hinz enjoyed coaching Prangnell and the CHS team.

“(The) 1998 Provincial Championship team still is one of the best teams I’ve coached,” he said.  As I look back, a lot of it had to do with Ben, not only for his aggressive play, but also for his undeniable love for Jesus Christ.  Ben made me a better coach!”

Prangnell gives a lot of credit to his high school alma mater.

“(CHS has) given me experiences and skills I use today in public speaking, communicating, working with people, organizing, and planning,” he said. “It’s sadly typical, but when you’re younger you don’t always realize the blessings of what you’ve been given. And then you look back and you meet a lot of people who did not get what you got.”

The Prairie boy found his way to Maui when he and seven college friends went to Oahu for three weeks.

“That’s when I figured out that Hawaii’s not a bad place to land!” he said laughing.

The next year Prangnell volunteered at a ministry in Maui and attended Hope Chapel which was located down the street from his work.

“I immediately got involved at Hope Chapel . . . and just really caught a heart for the ministry here and the people.”

At Hope Chapel he worked his way up from a bookstore volunteer to the church receptionist—a position he said never felt like a good fit for his personality.

“The task orientation of that job was burning me thin,” he remarked.

After a year as receptionist, he jumped at an opportunity to work with the former associate pastor, Kit Lauer, to lead the church’s Friday evening service.

“I spent seven great years working with Kit,” he remembered. “He was like a father figure who mentored me in all aspects of pastoral care. Most people spend seven years in college and seminary. I spent seven years in Kit Lauer’s minivan!”

In 2009 Lauer died of leukemia and Prangnell assumed his leadership position for the Friday evening service.  He hopes to carry the same passion his mentor had to reach people who don’t know God.

“A person who might not go to church on Sunday morning might step through the doors on a Friday night,” he said.

This desire to network with those outside the church also inspires Prangnell in his work with Basketball Maui.

“I’ve met more people in the community in one year than I had in 10 years prior,” he insisted. “I’ve had people come to church on Friday nights just because they remember me as the guy who did the basketball camp.”

High profile basketball coaches help Prangnell at his camps. Last year, at his first camp, he had Fred Crowell, the founder of Northwest Basketball Camps (NBC) and Lorenzo Romar, head basketball coach for the Washington Huskies. 

Prangnell also has a big vision for his camps. He’s established the Kit Lauer Memorial Scholarship program to help families who lack the funds to send their children to camp. Next summer he is hoping to have 350 campers and simultaneous camps running on two different sites on the island.

He’s also especially excited for two of the coaches who are coming to this year’s camp.

“Gib Hinz is going to be there this summer,” he said, “along with John Thiessen, who is a former (Briercrest) Clipper.”

Hinz is proud of the accomplishments his former player has made.

“You always wonder where your players may be in 5-10 years after you've coached them,” he stated. “I always knew Ben would be a success wherever he'd go, but he far exceeded any of the hopes and dreams I had for him.  Ben has totally changed the basketball culture on Maui for every young person there.”

Prangnell admits that the fact that his basketball camps are in Hawaii might be a bonus when it comes to luring coaches to help out at the events.

“I’m not sure if it would go over as well if it were Basketball Ohio,” he joked.