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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 4:57 p.m., Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obama plays basketball at alma mater

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., leaves Kua 'Aina burger restaurant after ordering in Honolulu, Hawaii, Tuesday Aug. 12, 2008. Sen. Obama is in Hawaii for a vacation.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama shakes hands as he leaves Punahou School after playing basketball there this morning.

AP PHOTO | Alex Brandon

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, second from right, talks with Punahou School president James Scott, from left, high school principal Kevin Conway and director of athletics Tom Holden, right, as he arrives at the school to play basketball this morning.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

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U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's motorcade left his Kailua vacation rental at about 10:35 a.m. for a trip into town in Honolulu to play basketball at Punahou School, Obama's alma mater.

The motorcade arrived at the school at about 11:15 a.m. James Scott, Punahou's president, and Scott's wife, Maureen, greeted Obama, who was wearing workout clothes and carrying a basketball. Kevin Conway, Punahou's high school principal, also welcomed the Illinois senator.

Obama was expected to play basketball with some of his high school classmates and campaign staff. They were expected to play on the practice court at the Asa Thurston Physical Education Center because the main Hemmeter Gymnasium is under renovation.

Obama attended Punahou, an elite private school, from fifth grade in 1971 until he graduated high school in 1979. He played on Punahou's basketball team that won the state championship his senior year.

Obama, wearing a Punahou baseball cap, waved to a crowd of parents, staff and students as he left the gym and headed to his van. After many in the crowd groaned, thinking he would not come over, Obama walked over to shake hands and exchange hugs and kisses. Obama hugged his high school dean, Paula Kurashige, who he said helped get him into college.

Obama's motorcade left Punahou about 1:10 p.m.

A few minutes later, University of Hawai'i students Craig Dias, 19, of Makaha, and Leah Yamamoto, 19, of Kailua, were driving around the Ward Complex of shops looking for a place to eat when they saw Obama's entourage pull into Kua Aina sandwich shop around 1:30 p.m.

"We were going to eat someplace else and then we saw him," Dias said.

So they sat down to a meal of a pineapple burger for Dias and a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich for Yamamoto as Obama stood about 10 feet away ordering six half-pound cheeseburgers, eight third-pound cheeseburgers, 10 kids' burgers and 20 orders of fries, owner Bryan Botelho said.

"No drinks but a lot of fries a lot of fries," Botelho said. "He must have worked up an appetite."

As customers and employees took pictures of the Hawai'i-born Democrat, Obama spent 10 to 15 minutes waiting for cook Kirby Buhlig to fill the order.

"It was a pleasure," Buhlig said.

Obama chatted about his vacation but did not mention politics, Botelho said.

"No, no, no, no," Botelho said. "That's not why he's here. His kids really love this place."

The bill came to just over $116, counterperson Dione Remo said, and Obama left a $40 tip.

The group left the sandwich shop at about 2 p.m. and traveled to Ala Moana Beach Park, arriving about 2:05 p.m.

Obama brought lunch to his wife, Michelle, his daughters and family friends who were waiting under a tree at the park.

Deborah Phillips of Makiki was sitting on a blanket with her son, 14-month-old Wade Cadillac Linder, when Obama walked past.

"I said, 'Hi Mr. Obama. Would it be OK to have a picture with you and my child?'" Phillips said. "He said he couldn't because then he'd have to take pictures with everybody. He was really nice, though. He wasn't mean. He was a nice guy and it's cool to see him just kind of cruising at the beach."

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.