American School In Japan has already been successful at hosting inter-district tournaments in girls volleyball and girls soccer. Now the Mustangs are trying to put a major in-season invitational basketball tournament on the map.

The Kanto Classic begins late Thursday morning and concludes with boys and girls championship games Saturday evening at ASIJ’s Chofu campus in Tokyo’s western suburbs. In attendance will be many a team that plays in Far East tournaments, including three of the four reigning champions.

“We travel to so many tournaments around the Pacific; we thought it was time for the folks in Tokyo to see a tournament in action,” longtime ASIJ athletics director Brian Kelley said. “We want to have that excitement on our campus, to showcase basketball to our community.”

That three-day showcase will include teams that have won a combined 52 Far East tournament titles, including the most decorated D-I teams of all time, Kubasaki’s boys (13 titles) and girls (nine).

There’s even a team from down under, sort of – the Australian International School of Singapore is sending a boys team.

The Classic features two days of pool play, followed on Saturday by a single-elimination with consolation playoff, to be played in ASIJ’s high school, middle school and elementary school gyms. The championship games are at 6:20 p.m. Saturday for girls and 7:50 p.m. for boys.

Kelley and ASIJ also host the YUJO volleyball tournament in October and a girls soccer tournament in April.

“We’re trying to meet new schools and see different teams, maybe we can broaden friendships; it’s good for the kids,” Kelley said.

He and ASIJ are hoping this is not a one-shot deal. “We’re trying to create traditional weekends that people can take to the bank,” he said.

It will be vastly different from what DODEA-Japan teams have been used to, mostly playing two games a weekend, one on Friday evening and one Saturday morning.

“This is going to be a great test,” Nile C. Kinnick girls coach Mike Adair said. “It’s not like a typical weekend. You know who the people are who can hold up at the end.”

Kubasaki’s girls definitely own the frequent flyer miles prize for this regular season – just two weeks ago, they traveled to the Taipei American School Exchange, and here they are, back on the road again.

“The parents and the players appreciate the opportunity for more games,” said first-year Dragons coach Steven Casner.

It means more work at fund raising, bake sales, car washes and free-throw marathons. The Dragons girls will also run the concession stand during the Okinawa-American Friendship Tournament Feb. 4-5 and the Far East D-I tournament Feb. 20-23, each on Camp Foster.

The two-time defending D-I champion Dragons boys also appreciate the chance to see teams they don’t normally see, but coach Jon Fick said this season – after losing eight seniors to graduation – is more about looking inward.

“We’re thinking about ourselves, about finding ourselves. We just want to get better,” Fick said.

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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