Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s high school basketball teams usually take some pretty serious lumps, going up against adult teams in their annual appearances in the Martin Luther King Invitational Tournament.
But this year, Kubasaki’s boys team isn’t just playing – it’s competing and winning, having gone 2-0 through Friday’s games in the 17th MLK, being played at Okinawa’s Camp Foster Field House.
“This tournament is great for us. Great training,” coach Jon Fick said after his Dragons outlasted Team Supreme, an open men’s team, 44-38, in Friday’s pool-play game. The night before, Kubasaki cruised past the Camp Schwab Eagles, 46-33.
The MLK is the start of what Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s coaches call a two-weekend basketball clinic.
Against the bigger, stronger adult teams, the high schoolers get a physical education of a different sort. Next weekend in the fifth Okinawa-American Shootout, also at Foster Field House, they’ll get a speed education, going up against smaller, but quicker Japanese teams.
While noting that every game, every practice, every tournament is important, “it’s going to be a great two weeks,” Fick said. “A great facility, great teams, two great tournaments.”
The benefits gained from each tournament are invaluable, players said.
“It makes me stronger,” said Kadena sophomore guard Shawn Broughton of playing against adults. “It makes you more aware. I have to go to the basket harder than I usually have to.”
The play of the high school teams earned the respect of at least one of their adult counterparts.
“They’re fearless. They don’t back down,” guard Greg Wilson of Kadena Air Base’s base team said of Kadena High School’s boys team, which lost two close games on Thursday. “They’re structured, they’re well-disciplined. On any given day, they can beat half the teams here.”
Of Kubasaki, Wilson said the Dragons are similar to Kadena “but they have a bit more determination,” he said.
Noting that Kubasaki’s senior tandem of Kai Yamaguchi and Kentrell Key have stated their goal is to win next month’s Far East Division I tournament, Wilson said: “They keep that same attitude, they will.”
Kadena’s girls, one of three teams in the women’s division, lost its first two games by an average margin of 18 points.
Shooting stars give Samurai a boostWill Rogers might have remarked about Matthew C. Perry senior John Ayers and junior Rebekah Harwell: “They never saw a shot they didn’t take.”
“That’s definitely true,” Samurai girls coach Kevin Peterson said Friday during the Samurai’s appearance in the second of two in-season Western Japan Athletic Association tournaments.
At Kobe, Harwell scored 37 of Perry’s 44 points in a 44-37 win over Kyoto International University Academy. At Nagoya, Ayers had 22 points and 10 assists as the Samurai dominated St. Maur International, 68-36.
Ayers and the Samurai boys have rebounded from an 0-3 start, winning for the 12th time in 14 games.
“You can’t say enough about the hours John puts into his craft,” Peterson said, adding that he might see Ayers some afternoon shooting in the high school gym, then three hours later walk through again and Ayers is still going at it. “It says a lot about his dedication.”
Like Ayers, Harwell isn’t shy about giving advice to teammates about how to better their game. “Their willingness to share their knowledge is invaluable,” Peterson said.
His Samurai girls have struggled, winning just three times in 12 games. “We wouldn’t hang with the JV” if not for Harwell, he said. “Her on-court leadership and off-court counseling, she stays late, she comes in early, and she’ll work with any player on any aspect of the game.”