By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
Well, basketball season is under way, and you know what that means:
I suppose I ought to be more than pleased; a player of Japanese heritage on a high school or college team was once something of a novelty. I look back on Rafu sports pages of the not-too-distant past and see that any JA who was on a team – let alone starting – was getting lots of ink.
Happily, the number of young JA players on local prep and college rosters has grown to the point that their mere presence is no longer “news.” That’s a development I view with a great deal of pride.
Given the masses of athletes who have honed their skills growing up and playing in leagues like CYC, SGV, F.O.R., Jets/Jetts, CBO and JAO, it makes perfect sense that they have matured into first-rate players. Not just first-rate Asian players, but the finest of any race or creed.
Keep in mind that leagues for “shorter” players in the Japanese community began nearly a century ago, so to see their proliferation to the current degree is monumental. As a viable force on the court, this community has arrived, baby!
This success, however, has presented me, as Rafu sports editor, with an increasingly vexing dilemma: how in the Wide, Wide World of Sports am I to keep up with them all?
A couple of years ago, I purchased a couple of magnetic white boards to post near my desk, onto which I began listing as many JA players as I could find on local high school and college rosters. As you can see in the photo below, they’ve become filled and I can’t write much smaller, so I’m going to need another.
Many of you have seen the requests for names and information about these athletes to be included in our coverage, and I can’t adequately express my gratitude for the overwhelming response. Not only have names and schools been submitted, but also loving descriptions about the kids and their histories, their strengths and family ties, and how they’ve developed as athletes and as fine young people.
There are folks who have been dutifully supportive to the reporting of local sports, and not only of their own kids. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the likes of Isamu Murakami, Bryan Takeda, Jesse James, Lisa Tanita, Gail Matsui, Yosh Hirai, Jeff Murakami, Florence Ochi, Joe Kikuchi, Teresa Watanabe and Gay Kurahashi, to name but a few.
Countless others out there have been faithful in bringing my attention to their favorite players, though not always in the most delicate fashion, I’ll admit. One grandparent sent in a fairly scathing missive inquiring why I wasn’t covering his grandson’s every game, because he was destined to become the “next Pete Maravich.” For those of you who can’t remember the pre-ESPN days, look him up. He was awesome.
My problem has become one of sheer mathematics. There’s simply not enough of me to cover so many players in any given week. That’s what makes the reporting by parents, coaches, grandparents, fan clubs, etc., so valuable. As wonderful as it is that all these kids are playing, it’s maddening that I can’t cover it all.
For example, by my latest calculation, we have more than 50 Varsity players to cover in the four public Torrance high schools alone. Of the 12 players on coach Lauren Kamiyama’s North High girls’ team, at least seven have Japanese surnames. The Torrance basketball scene alone could be my sports beat.
Perhaps what this rambling rant is leading to is a bald-faced plea for continued and consistent assistance in reporting what’s happening on the court this season. It’s impossible to physically be in more than one place at a time, and the “Why don’t you just check the Internet?” option is fading rapidly.
Max Preps is a great resource for schedules, scores and stats, but is quite often inconsistent. The site relies on coaches to report the information from every game, and I’ve noticed that the losing team frequently reports nothing. I can understand that after a disheartening defeat, the last thing you’d want to do is relive the gruesome occasion in detail.
A more recent development is how many major newspapers – the Daily Breeze, L.A. Times, Pasadena Star-News, Daily News and others – have greatly curtailed their local sports reporting, or have eliminated it altogether. Much of what has continued is no longer available online, and since many papers have become part of news conglomerates, the information is often identical to other outlets.
We have some fine local athletes playing basketball this season, and the idea that even one might not get the recognition he or she deserves has literally kept me awake at night. Honest.
Even the barest bit of information is valuable to us, so that at the very least, we can report a game score and how many points a certain player had. Plenty of us are interested in how many three-pointers Kelli Kamida sank, how Justin Hino was cool as ice making free throws, or how Kayoko Fong’s steal in the fourth quarter made all the difference. With your help, I’ll do my best to make sure their efforts don’t go uncelebrated.
Tips can be called in, mailed, or sent by homing pigeon, but the easiest way is email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks in advance, and keep those cards and letters coming!