By JORDAN IKEDA
Rafu Sports Editor
Torrance starting two guard Jordan Hiroshima and Tartars varsity head basketball coach George Tachibana could not hide the obvious disappointment in their faces after Friday night’s loss to the North Torrance Saxons.
Down 18 points midway through the third quarter, the Tartars made a scrappy comeback pulling the game within four and had a seemingly wide open layup to cut the deficit to a single basket, before Mr. Momentum was snatched from them thanks to a Lebron James-esque block by North’s star forward Daren Hechanova. The Tartars ended up losing 78-68.
“Adversity makes you stronger,” coach Tachibana told the Rafu Shimpo after the game. “Everybody can be happy and upbeat when things are going good. So, we’re being tested. Life is like this. You get into the real world and you have to be able to handle adversity.”
The adversity that coach Tachibana is referencing runs deep. While winning can quickly develop a team, losing can just as quickly derail one. Case in point, for the first time in over a decade, a Tachibana-led Torrance squad (10-4, 2-6) is faced with the reality that they will not be in the playoffs this year.
“This season would be way worse for me if I didn’t have Jordan out here and his family out in the stands,” coach Tachibana continued. “It’s comforting to me. It’s helping me deal with this season. I think the main thing is to try to keep things positive and not let the kids give up.”
Jordan, the leading scorer for the Tartars, wholly embraces his coach’s words. Has for the past four years at Torrance High. After all, coach Tachibana is Jordan’s uncle.
“Knowing that I have someone close to me, at school and on the basketball court,” Jordan said. “It’s a
really good feeling to be close to the coach. He’s a great coach and I love playing for him.”
Since joining varsity as a trigger-happy sophomore, Jordan has not only seen his overall numbers rise, but his entire game evolve. His scoring average has gone from 2.7 to 8.5 to 12.7 points this year and his defense, once sorely lacking, has now become a strength.
The newfound defensive proficiency, Jordan quickly credits his uncle for helping him develop.
But in spite of the progressive improvement in his game and the ample success on his resume, there remain whispers of nepotism at work.
“You get used to it after a while,” Jordan said. “You get over it. I just have to prove myself more than other people because of it. It gives me motivation.”
“I think coaching relatives, there are some things that make it difficult, but because of the way Jordan is, it’s been a pleasure,” Tachibana said. “He’s an A-1 character kid, and he just so happens to be one hell of a player.”
Case in point, while the Saxons held Jordan to his average this past Friday, in their last meeting two weeks before, Jordan dropped 32 points on 50 percent shooting, nailing five threes, and going a perfect 11-11 from the charity stripe.
“Everybody knows the type of player he is,” coach Tachibana continued. “Everybody throws the house at him. They put their best defender, they beat him up, they take him down, do whatever they can, and basically try to shut him down.”
“You know, it’s fun, but at the same time, it’s really frustrating,” Jordan said about being the focal point of defensive schemes. “When they’re sticking to me, I can just see their eyes and know that they’re not moving anywhere. They’re just staying right here. At the same time, it makes me feel like, okay, the recognize me, I’m a player to be watched for.”
Jordan’s older brother Jason, who is 16 years his senior, has been watching Jordan play ball his entire life, from coaching his FOR team to attending all of his high school games.
“Jordan has always had talent as a basketball player,” Jason said. “From the time he was young he would go to all of Trevor [other brother]and my basketball games, so he was always around it. He had a little Nerf court growing up, then transitioned to the little indoor hoop, to the eight footer, to the ten foot hoop. I have seen him improve year after year adding things to his game that would not let him stay stagnant as a player. The fact that he works hard to improve his game and to prove himself year after year is something I’m really proud of.”
Family has remained an important aspect in Jordan’s life and played a role in his choosing to suit up for Torrance. While Jason went to West Torrance, and Jordan’s other brother Trevor went to South, Jordan chose the Tartars.
“He’s the first one,” Tachibana said. “I’ve got ten nephews that all play basketball in the area, nephews and my own two sons. Jordan’s the only one who actually came over and played. I definitely feel privileged that he’s been here in my program. With his older brother and some of the other nephews I was probably closer to because when they were growing up, I did more things with them. With Jordan, it’s just been basketball. He’s probably the nephew that I knew the least, but I really cherish the fact that we got to get close over these four years and I got to know him. Hopefully when he looks back, these have been a great four years. It definitely has been for me.”
Despite his red eyes and sullen face, despite the tough loss and obvious disappointment, as his uncle spoke, Jordan nodded his head in complete agreement, silently acknowledging that his four years at Torrance have indeed been great.
It’s clearly evident that coach Tachibana’s lessons have not fallen on deaf ears.