Once you’re boots-on-the-ground at one of these events, you never know who you’re going to run into. Especially the former Pacific high school sports stars who prove that you can come home again to the region and still sparkle.
Take Zori Drew, for instance. She was Stars and Stripes’ Pacific high school Athlete of the Year for 2006-07 out of Kadena, her jumping-off point to a basketball scholarship at Brigham Young-Hawaii.
From there, she was commissioned into the Army last year and is now a first lieutenant stationed at Korea’s Camp Stanley. Her Area I team took the No. 1 seed entering the double-elimination playoffs of the 27th Osan Pacificwide Holiday Basketball Tournament. The Warriors dashed the hopes of Yongsan Garrison’s earning the top seed thanks to their 60-59 edging Thursday of the Lady Rebels.
Then, there are those back in Korea on Christmas break who chose to suit up for their post-level teams in the Osan tournament.
Darius Wyche, Daegu High’s 2011-12 Athlete of the Year, is playing guard for Daegu/Area IV post-level team. Wyche is on ROTC scholarship to Troy University in Alabama, where he’s on the basketball practice squad. He’s hoping to walk on to the Trojans’ varsity next fall.
Not participating in the tournament but still back in the area are a handful of other former Korea high school sports heroes.
• Sean Moye, Osan American Class of 2009, and Nathan Baldevia, Class of 2011 (and Celine’s younger brother), were boys volleyball stars for the Cougars; Baldevia and his cohorts Matt Albonetti, Jason Griess and Billy Bortscheller won the first Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I regular-season and tournament titles in school history in 2010. Moye and his teammate Dan Arnold each earned volleyball scholarships to Mount Olive (N.C.). Moye has since transferred to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, while Baldevia matriculates at Bellevue (Wash.) College, quite close by his older sister, who’s finishing up her senior year at the University of Washington.
• Alina Hauter, Osan Class of 2011, was the irresistible force/immovable object in the Cougars’ girls soccer team’s defense, not one to score goals but also one to not allow many, either. With Hauter at sweeper, the Cougars won their third straight Far East Division II Soccer Tournament title and Pacific-record seventh overall.
Camp Humphreys’ basketball team continues to trend fashionwise in the Osan tournament. Having already remade their uniform logo and saluting the Brooklyn Nets in the process, one of the Bulldogs’ men players, Ron Tinsley, is definitely showing his Crimson Tide colors, having designed his own winter jacket sporting a huge A with the years of every University of Alabama football national championship sewn on. Originally from Seoul, Tinsley, 25, a dependent spouse, lived for six years in Daleville, near Fort Rucker, where he was brought up cheering for anything Tide. “My whole family is from Alabama. They all cheered for Alabama,” Tinsley said.
Humphreys’ men took the second seed out of Pool B into the men’s double-elimination playoffs.
With pool play at an end, it was fairly clear that the host Osan Defenders and their most fierce yet friendly rival, Guam’s Andersen Bombers, were the teams to beat going into the playoffs. The Bombers won their three games by an average of 26.7 points, while the Defenders topped their three foes by an average of 23.3 points. Very likely they’ll see each other come Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Osan main fitness center. Perhaps twice.
But the women? That’s another story, especially after Casey beat Yongsan on Thursday. That left Humphreys at No. 1, Yongsan second and Casey No. 3, each with 2-1 pool-play records. They each beat each other, A beat B, B beat C and C beat A, so it came down to point differential. Humphreys’ was plus 6, Yongsan’s plus 3 and Casey’s minus 9. Pretty safe to say it’s prudent to withhold judgment. There’s a total of 11 former college players, three present or former All-Army players, one All-Armed Forces player and even one ex-pro among those three teams.
We will see what we will see.