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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Japanese shoot for dreams

Ohashi earns invitation to U.S. basketball camps By


Staff writer

This was no leisurely way to spend a weekend.

News photo
Yusuke Ohashi (5) dribbles the ball while being closely defended during during a Tryout Japan '07 game on Saturday at Nihon University. Ohashi, 23, earned a CBA tryout and a trip to the ProAdvantage Big Man and Guard Camp in the United States this summer. KAZ NAGATSUKA PHOTO

It was an exhausting hold-nothing-back way to spend two days. After all, each shot, rebound and dribble could've help determine a bright future.

So there were 31 participants exerting every ounce of their strength in hopes of getting a shot to play in the birthplace of basketball. The reason?

Reach Your Dream of Hoop, a non-profit organization established last year, held a tryout for the second consecutive year last weekend to give opportunities to young Japanese basketball players who hope to ultimately play professionally in the United States.

The participants, under the watchful eyes of three coaches and scouts from the U.S., went through programs such as fundamental drills, scrimmages, and full-court games in this two-day audition, which was dubbed "Tryout Japan '07," at a Nihon University gymnasium.

Right after the tryout, the organizer announced five players would receive invitations for camps and tryouts in the U.S., including the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), which is essentially a feeder league of the NBA.

Terry Layton, an expansion coordinator of the United States Basketball League and one of the scouts at the tryout, said he was mainly watching players that had big hearts.

"What I was personally seeing is an aggressiveness," said Layton, who has coached on several national teams, including Panama and Mexico. "Secondly, I was seeing whether the players are fundamentally sound."

Yusuke Ohashi, a 173-cm player from Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, said that he was focused on exhibiting his best during the two-day event. His effort paid off. Ohashi's name was on the list. The Japan Times will report on the other four players' camp invitations in future editions.

"I was just stunned when my name was called," said Ohashi, who was invited to the CBA free agent camp in August and the United States Basketball Accademy's ProAdvantage Big Man and Guard Camp (where recruiters from various U.S. pro teams assemble) in late July.

The 23-year-old Ohashi, who now plays for a club team while working as an employee there, said it feels like a dream come true and definitely wants to go to the other side of the Pacific Ocean to play in the camps.

"I always wanted to play at a higher level," he said. "It won't be easy to take some days off at the company. But I'm going to beg my company to go."

Takao Ando, the chairman of Reach Your Dream of Hoop, said that holding a tryout for Japanese players in their homeland is a good way for them to showcase their skills to the world.

"Even when a Japanese player joins a tryout over there (in the States), he doesn't really get attention because there are so many participants and Japanese players aren't really good at exposing themselves," said Ando, who has made a name for himself as one of Japan's top basketball journalists. "But if you have it here, there's not that kind of worry by holding this here."



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