By JORDAN IKEDA
RAFU SPORTS EDITOR
The Nisei Week Hoops Tournament continued its successful run of bringing together the Asian American community this past weekend. Fifty-four teams spread across nine divisions, four women and fi ve men, laced up their sneakers for the tournament that took place at Whittier High School, Chapman University and Montebello High School.
From the 2008 reigning Nisei Week queen, Jill Hiraizumi, to a group of coworkers banding together, to a guy, Lance Convento, who is playing professionally in the Philippines, this tournament had a little bit of everything.
“This was something we decided to do this year for fun,” Hiraizumi told the Rafu Shimpo about forming the Past Present Future team made up of past, current and up-and-coming Nisei Week court members. “We thought it would be a good way for us to bond. As Nisei Week candidates we are trying to bridge the gap between the Japanese and American cultures. But for us, for this tournament, we’ve been able to bridge all the generations.”
“We represent the majority of ’08 court and ’09 candidates and an honorary ’07 member,” said Michelle Yukari Hirose, who is a part of the 2009 court and is sponsored by Japanese Restaurant Association of America. “Hopefully we’ll do this every year. Hopefully it will be a tradition.”
“This is great,” added Dana Fujiko Heatherton, who will be representing the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute as part of the 2009 court. “I mean, we’re so used to going through training, learning cultural stuff with all of our court members. But this is fun to actually get on the court and get sweaty.”
And while the Past Present Future squad did not take home a championship, they did take the friendship game by one point.
Sunday featured some fiercely competitive b-ball and an all-around good time. While there was a lot of physical play, most of the teams seemed to enjoy the whole experience.
First Ave, a group of coworkers out of Irvine who work for a company called ProtectMyID.com, were excited to have taken part in their first Nisei Week Hoops tourney. They ended up winning the Men’s A Seattle division in a closely contested battle against Team Knockers.
“We usually don’t win,” said Nelson Yu, a member of First Ave. “We play a lot in the Irvine leagues, and I’ll be honest with you, we struggle in those leagues, so this is good for our confidence. We came here and had a lot of fun.”
Another first time participant, Taiwan Center, fresh off of their Nisei Athletic Union North/South Basketball Tournament championship, ended their tournament run with a hard fought victory as well. In fact, “hard fought” was a recurring theme throughout the weekend.
“It’s good because everybody plays hard,” said Monica Tokoro, whose Knightriders ended up winning the Women’s AA division. “It seems like everybody plays harder than in other tournaments and everyone is still friendly. It’s good competition. It’s one of my favorite tournaments.”
“It’s probably one of our favorite tournaments,” echoed Brian Lee of Men’s A+ San Francisco Division winners Breakaway. “We look forward to this tournament. It brings everybody together. We know a lot of the other teams. We have a mutual respect for a lot of the other teams that we play against. We make friends. It’s good competition. Good clean fun.”
Sounds about right.
Complete Nisei Week Tournament scores and results to follow next week.