By CHRIS KOMAI, Special to The Rafu
Laughter and high spirits filled the courtyard and the gymnasium of the Terasaki Budokan in Little Tokyo on June 25 as the inaugural JA Hoops Reunion brought together over 150 former teammates, opponents, coaches and supporters of the Japanese American basketball community.
The reunion was initiated by Alan Kosaka, a former player himself, who spent many years helping to bring the Budokan construction project to completion. Kosaka explained that he had been asked by others why there had not been a basketball reunion for over a decade. Kosaka decided to combine a casual gathering of the JA basketball community with a fundraiser for the Budokan, a project of the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC).
Because of the significance of basketball, volleyball and the martial arts in the Japanese American community, LTSC felt a first-class facility would bring members of the greater Japanese American community to Little Tokyo.
Most of the attendees were participants in the Southern California Nisei Athletic Union (SCNAU) and the Southern California Women’s Athletic Union (SCWAU) adult leagues going back to the 1970s. A lot of players got their start through the many youth organizations and then when they had children, they enrolled their kids into organized basketball, leading to generations of participants.
Besides the gathering, the 2022 JA Hoops Reunion was highlighted by the presentation of the 2021 John R. Wooden Award “Legends of Coaching” honor to Dave Yanai, former basketball coach at CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU Los Angeles. Tetsu Tanimoto and his son Marcus, members of the John R. Wooden Awards Committee, made the presentation to Yanai, who was recognized as a coach who exemplifies “the legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach’s high standards of coaching success and personal achievement.”
Kosaka acknowledged the sponsors and volunteers that made JA Hoops Reunion possible. In response to the enthusiasm from the attendees plus high interest from others who could not come, Kosaka announced that another basketball reunion could happen next June. Stay tuned.
Photos by MICHAEL KOMAI/Rafu Shimpo