Once in a Lifetime

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Higashi Osaka All-Star guard Yuzuki Sasamoto shoots while Ethan Lam and Ben Choi of the CYC All-Stars close out on defense. (Photo by JORDAN IKEDA/Rafu Shimpo)

By JORDAN IKEDA

Rafu Sports Editor

This past weekend, the Community Youth Council (CYC) hosted a pair of goodwill basketball games that provided the unique opportunity for East San Gabriel Valley youth to match up with their peers from Osaka, Japan.

“Anytime you get foreign kids from another country, it’s always a good experience for our youngsters to experience that,” said Mark Shimasaki who is a member of the CYC board of trustees as well as the governing board. “The kids and their parents too, seem to be very honored to be a part of this program and to represent CYC and for that matter America in a goodwill game like this.”

Hailing from Osaka, Japan, the Higashi Osaka boys and girls all-star teams were made up of sixth graders from various schools throughout the Osaka area. Both squads were coached by Ryosuke Kimura, Hiroshi Nishida, and Ryosuke Ooura. The boy’s team included 15 members: Katsunari Terasaki , Masaki Kasai, Ryuta Kaneko, Daichi Maeda, Takuho Yamanishi, Kiichi Orihara, Keita Oohigashi, Yuzuki Sasamoto, Yamato Iwashita, Takuya Shinagawa, Gentetsu Iwamura, Kouhei Takakura, Yoshinobu Ueda, Kaito Oomichi and Tetsuya Kanda.

The girl’s team, also coached by Akio Shiogaya, included: Kyoka Takeda, Azuki Ogawa, Shono Nakamoto, Fuuka Taniguchi, Mizuki Sato, Risa Shirogane, Yuka Ikeda, Sae Inami, Leona Toyama, Amiru Kioka, Miki Nakashima, Reki Murata, Ami Naruse, Ayumi Koi, and Motoko Kawasaki.

CYC put together a boys all-star squad lead by Mustang Titans coach, Thomas Nico and assisted by Scott Chow of Mustang Black. The members included: Ryan Lew, Bruins Blasters; Bryan Phan, Dodgers Kolohe Boys; Ryan Sue, Evergreen Sonics; Ben Choi, Bruins Dragons; Jeremy Wong, Bruins Blasters; Ethan Lam, Tigers Wizards; Nelson Muronaka, Jets Wild Force; Bryant Chow, Tigers Wizards; Rece Kunisaki, Mustang Titans; Brandon Hamaguchi, Mustang Dragons; and Andrew Moc, Mustang Dragons.

For the girls, the SGV all-stars were coached by Yas Oda and included: Sophia Song, Casey Johnson, Hayley Tanabe, Dani Iwami, Janessa Thropay, Victoria Gutierrez, Barbara Sitanggan, Genessa Bedoya, and Kate Tokuhara.

Before each game, both teams lined up and exchanged gifts.

“It’s probably the only time I’m ever going to play on an all-star team against a team coming from Japan,” said Ben Choi, “So it should be really fun.”

The Japanese squads ended up winning, despite the Higashi Osaka girls having a glaring height disadvantage, but both games were well-played and hard-fought contests. In the end, it was more about the nature of the games more so than the outcome.

“It was definitely different,” said Janessa Thropay. “They were a lot faster than I expected. Their defense is really, really good. They also play as a team.”

“It was fun. They were fast,” said Shono Nakamoto. “I tried to box them out, but they were so tall that they pushed me out. That was cool.”

While both the American and Japanese kids found a new appreciation for the others’ strengths and weaknesses, in the end, it was about the nature of the games more so than the outcome.

“I see myself not only as a coach, but also a teacher,” said Osaka coach Akio Shiogoya. “I want to teach my kids to nurture friendship through games like this and educate them about different countries, cultures.”

“It was fun and educational,” echoed Osaka player Katsunari Terasaki. “I enjoyed playing a lot.”

“I just think, they may not appreciate it today or tomorrow, but as they get older, it will be a good memory, a fond memory for them,” said Shimasaki. “We just want them to experience that, because I know I wish I did when I was growing up. I never had this. We’re fortunate to play with competitors from the other side of the globe. It really is a once in a lifetime deal.”

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For the individual story on the boys game, check here. For the individual story on the girl’s game, check here. For the boys photo journal, exclusive to online, check here. For the girls photo journal, also an online exclusive, check here.

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