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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Seniors Adam Hodges and Bill Gray gazed at the papers in their hands, then at each other with smiles on their faces.

“This is surprising. Exciting,” Gray told Hodges, his Kubasaki teammate. “Hopefully, we’ll bring our ‘A’ game. People in the States can finally see what players in the Far East can do.”

“The States, man, they’re missing out on a lot of talent out here,” Hodges said, waving the paper in his hand.

It was a letter inviting Hodges, Gray and 13 others from around the region to play for an Asian-Pacific entry in the Amateur Athletic Union’s senior national championship basketball tournament July 25-31 in Detroit.

The 15 players were picked from a pool of 25 who took part in the first combined Asian-Pacific High School All-Star game on Feb. 22 at Seoul American High, combining those from the Class AA and A Far East High School tournaments that ended Feb. 22.

Dietrick Glover, assistant coach for the Class A champion Osan American Cougars, was a driving force behind the joint All-Star affair and attempts to gain entry for a Pacific team in the AAU tournament.

“We’re just wanting to get our guys a look,” he said.

Getting into the tournament is not a done deal. The Far East team and its participants would first have to register with the AAU, something Glover says he’s planning to do soon.

The round-robin, single-elimination event features high school and club teams from around the United States, and the AAU appears to be rolling out the welcome mat for a Far East entry in the tournament.

The AAU boys basketball executive committee “would be happy to have the team participate,” AAU senior sports manager for boys and men’s basketball, Joe Crawford, said by e-mail from headquarters in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Money must be found for the tournament’s entry fee, $525, and to get 15 players, Glover and other coaches to the tournament in Detroit.

The Detroit event will not be certified through the NCAA for Division I college scouts, thereby limiting the Far East team’s exposure to NCAA Division II and III, junior college and NAIA scouts, Crawford said.

But to Glover, the issue is giving his players exposure to “any college recruiter (which) is better than what they’re getting now.”

“We really want to participate in the Detroit tournament to get our feet wet, to open more doors for next year,” Glover said.

Glover plans to pay $360 of his own money to help defray the entry cost. He said he’s found a group discount air ticket deal for $820 per player, and says he’s seeking sponsorship and fund-raisers to back the trip.

“If we can get one kid a scholarship this year and several kids get scouting looks next year, then it was well worth the trip,” said Glover, who’s worked with the Cougars for two seasons.

The team also will feature MVP Nino Etienne of the Class AA champion Seoul American Falcons and MVP A.J. Scott of the Class A champion Cougars.

Others include Doug Williams and Lars Kelley of two-time Class AA champion St. Mary’s International, Osan’s Steve Davis, Bradley Tinch of Robert D. Edgren in Japan, Draonne Johnson of Japan’s E.J. King, Ty Grossman and Will Cannington of Faith Academy in Manila, Song Soo-in of Yongsan High in Seoul, last year’s Class A MVP Jeff McKay of Morrison Christian Academy in Taiwan and Corey Stacy of Zama American in Japan.

Glover plans a week-long tuneup camp for the 15 Asian-Pacific players July 15-22 at the Osan Air Base main fitness center. The team would depart for Detroit on July 23.

Whether similar AAU trips happen in the future, Rosenberger said that Department of Defense Education Activity-Pacific Far East All-Star games should take place “every year.”

“This is the pinnacle," he said, “putting the best of the best on the floor. Nino and A.J. on the same team, instead of playing each other.”

Saturday’s game pitted 16 Class AA and nine Class A players, divided into East and West squads. The West won handily 112-88, behind a 26-point effort by Etienne, who played about 20 minutes of the 40-minute game.

While the All-Star game capped the 2002-03 season for most players in the Pacific, for the 15 Asian-Pacific players, it could be a new beginning.

“That’ll be interesting, to see how we match up against competition in the States,” Etienne said.

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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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