Okinawa teams experiencing all kinds of hoops
Stars and Stripes January 21, 2011
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – After coaching high school basketball in the States for the last eight years, Ray Broughton said he’s seen nothing like his Kadena Panthers boys have experienced this season.
They began by flying to Hong Kong and Tokyo for competition against fellow DODDS-Pacific and international schools. Last week, they took their lumps against the grownups in the 17th Martin Luther King Invitational for interservice teams.
Now, during this weekend’s 5th Okinawa-American Shootout at the Camp Foster Field House, his Panthers, Kadena’s girls and Kubasaki’s boys and girls faced smaller but fleet Japanese players who press, run the floor and shoot threes to compensate for their lack of size.
“You get the full circle,” Broughton, a three-time All-Army player, said of the tournaments Kadena and Kubasaki have played this season.
“You get a full taste of everything,” he said of facing adults and the likes of Hong Kong International’s senior star guard Adam Xu and Faith Academy freshman Micah Seaborn, rated No. 5 in the nation by ESPNRise.
“You’re talking talent that brings the team together,” Broughton said. “We started rough, but we’ve built on it and it’s showing through these games.”
Kadena’s boys (15-12) and girls (5-12), and Kubasaki’s boys (25-7) and girls (1-12) went up against 12 Japanese teams in the Shootout, 11 of them rated in the top 16 in Okinawa prefecture, including Konan’s boys and Itoman’s girls, each rated No. 1.
“It’s a great experience for all players to play with their Japanese counterparts,” said Kubasaki girls coach Stephanie Davis, in her second Shootout since taking over as Dragons coach last season.
“You build friendships and it gives each other a different look. … We get used to a fast-paced style of play. The Japanese are so quick. Any time we play Japanese teams, it helps us prepare” for next month’s Far East Tournament on Guam.
The tournament is co-sponsored by the U.S. Consul General on Okinawa, the Okinawa Basketball Association and DODDS-Pacific, with the help of contributors such as Marine Corps Community Services, which provided the venue as it has the last four years.
“MCCS has been great,” DODDS-Okinawa chief of staff Ron Sharik said. “They’ve been giving, giving, giving, because they understand how valuable it is.”
Their Japanese counterparts are equally eager to face American teams and experience a bit of Americana on base, a coach of one of the Japanese teams said.
“They love it,” said Jeff Brown, who works in MCCS contracting and has coached Koza’s boys for three seasons. “Coming on base, seeing the different physical style, the height and size difference.”
Play got underway Friday with the tournament’s round-robin phase. Single-elimination playoffs begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, and conclude with the championship games: girls at 3 p.m. and boys at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.