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Kinnick, Humphreys can't both win Far East titles this year

Jon Fick was the fastest coach to ever reach five Far East Division I basketball tournament titles within his first 10 years. But he's hoping to break a two-season drought.

DAVE ORNAUER/STARS AND STRIPES

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 6, 2018

Nile C. Kinnick won a Far East boys basketball title last year. So did Humphreys. This year, at least one of those teams won’t. At least not all by themselves.

Kinnick won the Far East Division I tournament and Humphreys took the D-II crown. But Humphreys moved up a division to start the school year.

Fueling the Red Devils’ and Blackhawks’ drives toward a possible D-I final showdown in February at Humphreys are several players who play all year around, and the coaches of their respective teams say they could be true difference-makers this season.

“It’s like we’re getting seasoned veteran players who know what to do,” Blackhawks coach Ron Merriwether says of All-Far East senior returners Jalen Hill and two-time Far East MVP Quintin Metcalf.

“He’s really stepped up as a leader this year,” Red Devils coach Robert Stovall said of junior rising star Kaine Roberts.

Metcalf and Hill spent last summer playing in Philadelphia for the Alexander Basketball Academy Global Squad, along with Kinnick’s Davion Roberts and Chris Watson and American School In Japan’s Koki Wiley.

“They kind of understand that it’s more than scoring points,” Merriwether said. “Trying to benefit the team. Makes us as a whole harder to beat. Make the extra pass, get your teammates involved, elevate the level of play of everybody else.”

For the last two summers, Roberts (no relation to Davion) has played for Yokohama B Corsairs U-15 to U-18 team in the Tokyo-Yokohama based Reccoss International League for teens.

While all are aiming to play at a higher level next year, it’s what they can do to bring their teams success this year that’s in focus now.

“He’s a team guy and that’s where he’s matured the most,” Stovall said of Roberts. “He can create points for other guys, which is what we hoped he could do.”

With the Roberts and Watson in the lineup, Kinnick went 25-4 a year ago, capturing the first Far East D-I title in school history.

Behind Metcalf and Hill, the Blackhawks made it a clean sweep of the Korea Blue titles, then went on to beat Yokota in the D-II final before taking third place in the combined Far East. They went 20-1, including a 5-1 ledger against Division I teams.

Even though it’s not new for Humphreys to face D-I opponents, “we have to prepare for whomever we may see,” Merriwether said. “We have to get better each week, have to improve on the little things.”

With Humphreys now at D-I and two other recent D-II champions, E.J. King and Yokota, in rebuild mode, the chase for the small-schools title could be a wide-open one.

Among the more promising teams is Osan, which keeps three starters, welcomes two talented newcomers and is hoping to improve in both Korea Blue and Far East finishes.

Matthew C. Perry welcomes a brother tandem from California, Justin and Joseph Andres, along with experienced Kadena transfer Anthony Laney.

And while Robert D. Edgren appears young, the Eagles welcome four players with stateside experience, as well as new-old coach Andre Thibert, who returns to the bench after a five-season hiatus.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

Quintin Metcalf continues to tower over opponents in Korea. The 6-foot-9 Humphreys Blackhawks senior is a two-time reigning Far East basketball tournament Most Valuable Player, in 2017 with Division I champion Seoul American and last January with Division II champion Humphreys. This season, Humphreys elevates to Division I thanks to a spike in enrollment.
JULIANNA VISICO/SPECIAL TO STRIPES

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