Kadena, Kubasaki take on island’s best in shootout
January 25, 2009
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — DODDS-Pacific’s most decorated high school basketball teams on Friday welcomed the finest Japanese teams on the island to Foster Field House for three days in the third Okinawa-American Shootout.
The shootout annually brings together Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s boys and girls teams, with a combined 31 Far East Class AA Tournament titles, and 12 of the top Japanese programs on Okinawa.
As a result, each side sees the best of both worlds, tournament organizers and coaches said.
"It works both ways, their (Japanese) speed and shooting vs. (Americans’) inside strength," said Keith Richardson, of Okinawa’s Marine Corps Community Services. He helps organize the tournament each year and serves as a liaison between Kadena and Kubasaki and the Okinawa Basketball Federation.
Japanese teams get stronger because the American teams are more physical, Richardson said, while Kadena and Kubasaki "like playing the Japanese because they see the fundamentals. It reiterates the point that they need to have those fundamentals so they can play better."
The tournament is the brainchild of the U.S. Consular General’s office in Naha, part of its "cultural program initiative" to promote good will between U.S. and Japanese schools, DODDS-Okinawa chief of staff Ron Sharik said.
"As you can see, it’s working," Sharik said. "Look at the smiles on the kids’ faces. Fantastic."
Bearing team mascots such as Raging Billows (Itoman) and Fighting Lions (Kitanakagusuku), the Japanese players could be seen mingling with Americans, attempting to speak English and trying snacks from the American vending machines.
The event was staffed entirely by volunteers. Players and coaches from the different teams took turns keeping score and running the game clocks. American coaches and Japanese players could be seen manning mops to keep sweat off the floor during timeouts.
And then there was basketball. Bob Driggs, who’s coached Kubasaki’s girls on and off since 1982, said players not only get a glance at how Japanese play ball, but how they comport themselves on and off the court.
"We get a chance to see people who take their sport seriously," Driggs said of Japanese teams that play year-round, whereas Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s programs are seasonal.
"You see their discipline. Not only how they play, but how they listen to their coach, the skills honed by hours of preparation and teamwork," Driggs said.
"It sets a great example. It’s great for them to see. Culture, manners, how they conduct themselves during the game as well as before and after. We make new friends and celebrate diversity."
While pool play began Friday, the tournament’s opening ceremony was slated for 9 a.m. Saturday. A pizza party was planned for Saturday evening after play ends, around 7 p.m.
Play continues through Sunday’s championship games, girls at 3 p.m. and boys at 4:30 p.m. at the Foster Field House.