Right now I'm on a trip to visit South Kent School.
This is the school that the recipient of the Slam Dunk scholarship will attend.

I just arrived in Boston via Chicago. Chicago was -12 degress and snowing.
Boston feels even colder than that.
I wonder how cold it is?
It will probably be even colder when I go out for dinner.

I wasn't able to sleep on the plane like I had intended, but watched 3 movies and read 2 magazines.
In between, I took notes about ideas I had for manga.
And I also thought about what I wanted to ask the head coach of South Kent's basketball team and their students.
This made the whole12 hour flight feel like it passed quickly.
Wow, it suddenly got dark outside.
It's 5:30 PM.
I'm really sleepy.
I'm glad I didn't schedule anything for today...

The Duke and Boston College game is on TV.
It's a heated game -- the specialty of college games.
They are even better than the pros at getting across their intensity and emotion.
You can say that one reason for the scholarship is to give players a chance at this stage.
The first step is to get the SD scholarship to play at South Kent.
Next, they can aim for getting a scholarship to a NCAA Division I school by playing well.

Tomorrow I'll be visiting Cushing Acadamy which is about an hour and a half away from Boston by car.
This is where they will study the language June through August while South Kent is on Summer vacation.

It looks like it will be cold tomorrow too.

Today I'm just going to eat, then go to sleep.

29 January 2007

I put on a down jacket and left to go outside for dinner, but after walking for 10 seconds I was chilled to the bone! I hurriedly went back inside, and went to a restaurant that I didn't have to go outside to get to instead.
The students who come here will need to figure out how to deal with the winter's cold.

Boston is a city known for it's seafood so the food won't be a problem for somebody Japanese.
You can have oysters, clam chowder, lobsters and other things that aren't too bad.

After coming back to my room and staring at my computer for a few minutes I've gotten slammed by an incredible drowsiness.
I'm just going tosurrender to it.
It's 9 PM.

Adding it all up, I've been awake for 27 hours straight, but I still "wake" up at 1 AM.
Then I stay half-awake, slipping in and out of sleep until I finally wake up for real at 5 AM. Eyes wide open.
This always happens right after I come to America.

It must be really hard on the International soccer players who come back to Japan to play in national games.

Well, I have to checkout at 9 AM today to go to Cushing.

I think I'll grab breakfast at Starbucks.

According to the weather report it's going to be colder today

30 January 2007

After driving for 2 and a half hours, I've arrived at a tiny hotel in the small town of Kent in Connecticut.
It's call the Starbuck Inn.
The owner came out to meet us, and he seemed to be called Starbuck, so it's probably his name.
It feels like I'm staying as a guest in somebody's house.
It feels cozy and at home.
But they have a LAN connection in such a small hotel in the country -- that's America.
I'm going to South Kent tomorrow so I'll be staying here for 2 nights.

I went to the Cushing Academy, a high school, today.
It's in a (very small) city called Ashburnham, an hour and a half out of Boston.
The collection of red brick buildings standing on the fabulous heights caught
my eye.
Shivering from the intense cold as we got of the car, the 3 of us 40 year old men were given a friendly greeting by one of the students.


The scholarship program is set up so that the 2 summer months (from the end of June to the end of August) will be spent here at Cushing Academy, not South Kent.
They'll live with other students in the dorm, study ESL (English for people whose native language is not English) in the morning, and go through their own training program at the gym.
Of course the number 1 purpose of having them go to summer school here instead of spending summer vacation at home in Japan is to improve their English.
The 2 months here will help build their communication skills for the new school year in September.

The person who met us was the head(?) of the summer session, Daniel.
He was a friendly gentleman who gave us a complete, detailed tour of the school.

In the end, I came away with the impression that it was a very well equipped institution.
I have never gone through an American school, so I consulted one of the people on the scholarship staff who had done an exchange in high school, Mr. Sasaki. I had wondered for a moment whether this was normal.
When I asked him, Mr. Sasaki said that they were very lucky.
It was completely different than when he went!

I was especially impressed with their art and exercise facilities.
Danielalso stressed that the art facility is one of the school's characteristics
that they are very proud of. Art?

They can choose from 3 different subjects for the afternoon classes -- art (fine art - drawing, ceramics, engraving, etc), performing arts (music, dance, theater, etc), or academics (science, math, etc).
Although it's not directly related to why they'll come here, I think it would be great if they took advantage of the great art and performing art facilities they
have here.
There were even a lot of high level pieces made by students.
I actually wanted to try those facilities out myself.

Since the exercise facilities were old compared to the art facilities, Daniel wasn't as proud of them.
He even eagerly said that if they were going to renovate, those facilities would be part of it.
But to my eyes, they more than enough compared to the normal high school facilities in Japan.
They have a gym specifically for basketball, a large locker room, and their weight training room has all the normal machines.
There's normally an exclusive trainer present, and they can take care of failures or small injuries that don't require a trip to the hospital right there.
In addition, there is a service where if you put your clothes in a box, they'll clean it and return it to you (for a fee).

For about 2 months, the recipient of the scholarship will be able to set their own training menu.
They have 7 basketball teams, but they mix players of different levels together (8-9 people per team), they don't play teams outside the school, and they mostly practice on a half court so I don't think it will be that challenging.
But they have full court pickup games on the weekends so I imagine that they'll have more fun and be more satisfied with those.

But they do have all the equipment to let you make your own training menu.

There's also soccer and baseball fields, tennis courts, an ice hockey
rink, footbal and field hockey fields, a lacrosse (very popular in New
England) field and an artificial field on campus.

The campus restaurant isn't just for the students but is also used daily by the teachers so it's probably very good. It is buffet style, like a hotel restaurant, and even Daniel said it was very good. But he did say that the coffee was bad.

The typical day will go something like this:
- Attend ESL class in the morning until lunch.
- Eat lunch, then go to either art or academic class.
- Dinner.
- Go through their training menu in the free time through the day up until
- After dinner from 8 PM to 10 PM, study English in their room.
- During this time they will be checked on. TV and the internet are off limits.
- After 30 minutes of free time, lights out at 10:30 PM.
- Sleep

Lights out at 10:30 may seem early to us, but given that they will be in a new environment, communicating in a language they're not used to, attending classes, and training, if they understand what the priorities are that they will need to focus on, then they will naturally fall asleep then.
From tiredness.
Daniel's recommendation is to make up for it by going out on the weekends.

Whether you have time to focus and work toward a goal in your youth makes a large impact on the rest of your life.

Even though they seem similar, there's a complete difference between doing
something you want to do and just going along with the flow.
We are so tired from the inundation of things and information that I think that it
might be nice to make our lives simpler.


It's 3 AM. I'm wide awake. Ahh....

I've given up on sleeping. It looks like the night's snow has built up.
Today I'm going to visit the main purpose of my trip, South Kent.
I'm going to see where the recipient of our scholarship will live and what type of people they'll be with.
I'll also watch a game, which I'm looking forward to. Yeah.

Somehow it's gotten light outside, and I can smell bacon frying.
I wonder what Starbuck's breakfast is like.

31 January 2007

Mr. Starbuck's breakfast was delicious...
I can't describe the goodness of what was served by the stern faced, solidly built man in an apron.
A dark brown labrador was sniffing around our legs.
She was a girl, named Madison.
I didn't ask how old she was.
I scratched her under the chin.

South Kent School's director, Richard came to get me at 10 AM.
He was small for an American and was a bright eyed gentleman.
For some reason all the people I'm meeting this time all seem like good people.
He was a graduate of South Kent.

One of our important scholarship staff members, Mr. Nakamura from Shueisha came here in April.
It looks totally different now.
Yes, this season is also beautiful in its own right.
I kept remarking on it's beauty as I walked through the snow-covered campus.

I had a different impression of it than Cushing Academy.
Each of the buildings were small and they felt like they were standing in the middle of nature.
They were built on a gentle slope.

They also had an art facility.
That seems to be characteristic of all the private high schools in this area.
Their ceramic facilities were very good.
They have several students who decide to go to art school afterwards.

I took a look at the dorm.
They had several rooms, from old to new, very dirty rooms, somewhat dirty rooms and slightly dirty rooms.
I guess that the rooms of young boys everywhere are the same.
The recipient of our scholarship will also be staying here.
In such a boarding school, all the teachers and staff also live on campus with their families.
You could even say that they play the role of parents for the students.
Compared to when I was in high school (in Kagoshima), there's much less distance between the students and their teachers...

Of course they also had a very good gym and training facilities.
Yesterday. Daniel wasn't satisifed with Cushing Acadamey's facilities, and compared to this, I can understand how he wouldn't be.
Now I get it.

One thing that I was jealous of was that the gym is always open.
All the boys live on campus, so they can come practice shooting or do weight
training when they have no class or in their free time.
Even during our tour, we saw student after student come out to shoot.
Their prep team will be playing a game against another school tonight.

I ate lunch and had a conversation with Japanese and Korean exchange students.
One of them told me that he wanted to become a car designer in the future.
Another one, a 15 year-old Japanese boy, said that he wanted to play basketball and that he came here because of a friend of his was already there.
He wasn't very tall, but you could look at his body and tell that he had undergone training.
He's currently playing on the varsity (second string) team, but he's still young so I suspect that he's dreaming of playing on the prep (first string) team and getting a scolarship to college.
Of course there's an even bigger dream after that, but regardless, he said that he wanted to make a living out of basketball.
He's promising.
Hang in there.
Thank you for telling me all of this.

This school and the makeup of their basketball team is different from Japan so I think I need to explain it here.


South Kent School has students in 10th, 11th and 12th grade (In Japan, it would be the second and third years of high school?) and post-gradute (PG, one year past the third year of high school in Japan) students.
Because they have the PG system, they are called a prep school.
80% of the students at the post-graduate level go on to play sports in college or aim to do so (I don't know if this percentage is only for this school or not).
There were many exchange students here regardless of their acadamic year.
That's is what I understood.
If I'm wrong, please let me know.

They have a third string basketball team.
The most elite team is the prep team, and they play in the area's Prep League and play in tournaments against comparable teams across America.

The prep team's members aren't all PG students.
It doesn't matter what year you're in, if you're good, then you can get on the prep team.
Currently, a 17 year old Korean athleate is on the team.
Dorell Wright, who was drafted in the first round by the Miami Heat, played 3 years here and made it onto the prep team as a 12th grader (third year high school in Japan).

Also, the teams are very international.
There are players from Korea, Senegal, Nigeria, England and Croatia.


In the afternoon I had a lengthy interview with head coach Chillius.
I asked him about his teams, exchange students, Dorell Wright -- one of his players that went to the NBA --, Japanese people, his philosophy as a head coach and more... There was a lot of material so I won't write it here, but I'll publish it in Shonen Jump and Business Jump and post it to the scholarship website soon, so please check it out if you're interested.

Then at night I watched a home game.
In order to make the 6 o'clock start, I ate a quick and early dinner with Richard.
I ate steak, which I don't eat often.
A very thick one.

Game time.
In all honesty their opponent's weren't that strong... South Kent's full court pressure in the first half prevented their opponents from moving the ball, resuling in 10 second violations.
The defense Was the deciding factor and quickly decided the result of the game.
The players ran a lot. But it was a game with a lot of flavor where both teams made a lot of mistakes.

I was imagining a Japanese athlete playing here while I was watching it.
Personally, I think that a good Japanese athlete has the power to compete here.
On the other hand they will need both physical and mental strength.

I gave my thanks to Ricahrd and took my leave.
The three of us had some casual beers before calling an end to a long day.

Tomorrow I'm driving 2 hours to New York and flying from JFK airport to
I'm going from the extremely cold Connecticut to the blazing hot (I've actually never been there so I'm just guessing) Florida.

I'm going to talk with South Kent School's prep team alumi Dorell.

1 February 2007

The people and atmosphere of New York all felt so brusuque.
My apologies for feeling that way to the people of New York.
I think my heart was unkowningly cleansed after spending only a few days in the cold and quiet New England countryside.
The waitress is staring at me like I'm her enemy (that's what it feels like).

I'm flying from JFK to Miami.
I stuffed my down jacket and muffler into my check-in lugage.
Packing for this trip was tough.


After my eyes were cleansed by spending several days in a place where you wouldn't be surprised to see a deer appear, the bright blue sky and the heat, the extravagant mansions and cruisers of the rich and famous, the vividly colored palm trees and the sky-rise buildings all seemed to me to be signs of a city obscenely deteriorating.

The biggest sporting event in America, the Super Bowl, will be held here in Miami this weekend so it's impossible to find a hotel (so I've heard).
I'm in a strange little hotel called Aqua. It's outside looks like something from the 1930's art deco period, and I'm not sure if it's that quaint or not.
I don't know if it was from the guest before me, but the room reeked of perfume which made my eyes water.
I left without taking a shower because it was getting close to the time for my interview.
Mr. Nakamura, who may have been tired because he was older or may not have
been feelinig well, complained that the shower didn't have hot water, but we ignored him since we didn't have much time.

We headed over to America West Arena where the Miami Heat met the Cleveland Cavs tonight.
I was to talk with the 21 year-old third-year graduate from South Kent, Dorell Wright, before the game.


I happened to run into Mr. Aoki, a sports writer living in Detroit, at the entrance to the areana.
We talked for a bit about basketball.
He had a worried look on his face as we discussed how Keijiro Matsui, known as KJ, was getting less playing time these days.
I guess every day is an unknown, and there's no telling what tomorrow brings for the young players battling on the front lines.


As I entered the locker room, I saw the name plate "6 JONES". The Heat had just impossibly signed a contract with Eddie Jones today.
The ex-Laker, one of my favorite players, Eddie, showed up shortly and all the media that were there crowded around him.
"1 WRIGHT" was next to that.

Dorell Wright appeared next with a big smile on his face, and hugged Eddie with a "My main ma-n!" Dorell is originally from LA, so I'm sure he was a fan of the Lakers' Eddie while growing up.
There's probably a lot that the 21 year-old Dorell can learn from the seasoned veteran.

He's a young man of good character, just like coach Chillius said yesterday.
That's how he looks. Compared to when talking about his team's situation with the Heat not able to improve very well, his face naturally lit up and relaxed when talking about South Kent, and especially coach Chillius.
You could say that his smile was still innocent.

I'll be publishing details of the interview in the Shonen Jump to be released soon, Business Jump, and this scholarship's web site, so check it out.

At the end, he hoped that if a Japanese player went to South Kent that they would enjoy the entire experience.
That message was from a graduated alum.

Now then... the game wasn't the main reason for coming, but of course I had to enjoy it. But, honestly, LeBron (Cavs) was coming off an injury and was far from 100% percent, the same for Shaq, and Wade wasn't his usual self -- not moving well and giving up turnover after turnover -- so we were in real danger of losing the battle against jet lag and sleep during the mediocre game.

But that was just the clever lead up to the start of the "Dwayne Wade Show".

It was the fourth quarter, and just as I had thought that the game was over, this aura -- like you can hear the electricity in the air -- sprang up around Wade, and he drove recklessly towards the basket.
Or so I thought, when he suddenly stopped and sunk a jump shot.
Then he drove in again impossibly quickly.
His opponents were obviously trying to stop him, and they had him covered so that it was impossible for him to do anything.
He sank another one.
He didn't even consider passing the ball for a second.

Is that what you call selfish?


It's that fact that he knows he can carry the tema and the confidence that he can win the game.
In spite of playing badly the first half, his extraordinary, stellar performance at the end awed me.
That genius, the level of effort to make his polished play moves my heart.

I don't have much of an opinion about the Miami Heat (I'm a Lakers fan after all), but even a critical observer such as I was almost moved to tears a few times.
It wasn't because I knew the players' backgrounds or I was watching a human drama unfolding, but just because of the exciting play of 1 man in front of me.

It has given me strength.
This is what you call being satisifed.

Back at the hotel.
The reek of perfume was still attacking my nose, but I fell asleep within a minute.

2 February 2007

I made a mistake in yesterday's News! The Heat's home arena isn't Amerca West, but American Airlines Arena! America West is Phoenix's. I'll fix that.


After spending 2 nights at the Aqua Hotel, it's beginning to grow on us.
I'm not as bothered by the lingering smell of perfume in the room, or the soggy cereal at breakfast.
And I'm not particularly concerned about the slippery wet floor tiles.
Mr. Nakamura's shower has hot water, and Mr. Sasaki is so used to the strange sounds in his rooms at night that he's thinking about recording them.
People just get used to things.
But when you do get used to something, it's time to move to the next town.

I took a shower before we leave.
It even had hot water.
My body is tired from more things than I can think of while traveling, so I'm grateful for the chance to take a shower.
But when I tried to hang the bath towel on the wall, the metal towel holder fell to the floor with a crash.

It was a great hotel.


I'm currently on the plane to Los Angeles.
It's a domestic flight, but it will take a little more than 5 hours.
What's up with that?
It's almost like travelling a bit internationally.
The climate is also very different depending on where you are, and there's a 3 hour time zone difference between the East and West Coast.
For us, that means we'll have a 27 hour day since we're flying from East to West today.

You have to be tough enough to withstand the stress of traveling and have the discipline to take care of yourself if you want to play sports for a living in America.
I had known about this before, but now I had truly experienced how difficult it is first hand.

I've watched a high school game at South Kent and a NBA game in Miami.
Tonight I'll watch a callege game in LA to wrap things up.
This will actually be the first time that I watch a college basketball game in person, so I'm really looking forward to it.
The next goal for the recipient of the scholarship to aim for is the NCAA Division I stage.

I'm going to watch the University of Portland and Loyola Marymount University game.

The University of Portland's starting PG is a Japanese freshman.
There's another brave person here.

I'll arrive at LAX in a little less than 2 hours.
There's still another 2 hours?!

3 February 2007

I'm wrapping up this trip with a visit to a college game.
It's been a very long time since I've been in Los Angeles, California.
Even in February, the sun shines down strongly, but it's cool in the shade.
At night it's a bit cold if you don't wear a jacket.

As soon as we got out of the airport, Mr. Nakamura was muttering to himself that the air hair suits him better and that he's more comfortable here.
It looks like he's feeling better now.

The suitcase that I had stuffed everything into died a tragic death so I'll have to buy a new one to replace it.


College facilities and gyms are on a different scale than high schools.
I came to see a game so I didn't directly see the training facilities, but I could tell that they were large from what I could see of their outsides.

The college I visited was LA's Loyola Marymount University (LMU).
They were playing the University of Portland tonight.
Both colleges are in the West Coast Conference.
Both LMU and Portland are in the bottom of their conference.
Gonzaga, which turned out John Stockton and Adam Morrison is at the top of the conference.

I bought popcorn and water and went in.
I passed on the beer.
I wasn't watching it as a reporter so it was ok, but for some reason...

Yoko Miyaji, a sports writer, was already there.
I had asked her for help with the scholarship early on, and she gave me a lot of advice.
It was on her advice that we set it up so that the recipient would be sent to a prep school.

I've gotten a lot of help from a lot of different people.
You all have my thanks.

I met Japanese person after Japanese person inside the arena.
People form the media, coaches who were there -- in America -- to observe, interns getting experience and the owner of the Bakersfield Jam, where Yuta Tabusa is playing.
I'm glad I wasn't holding a beer after all.
I wonder why...There was a lot of lively talk with Japanese who love basketball.

There was room to seat 3000, but it was only a third full even though it was a Saturday night.
I had imagined the stands would be full of students nosily cheering, like they show on television, so I was a bit surprised.
I wonder if it's because they aren't doing so well? Or is there a bit of a difference from colleges that are nationally ranked?
In any case, there were cheerleaders and a brass band, so it certainly was noisy.

"#5, Taishi Ito from Japan" was introduced amid the obligatory booing during the introduction of the away team.
Taishi Ito is a 20-year old point guard.
He's the reason why there were so many Japanese there.

It would be good if the booing got louder.
The larger his reputation, the louder the booing will be wherever he goes, which would be a sign of how well he plays.
Of course it would be the complete opposite at home.
I was excited just imagining that happening.

I had heard that the University of Portland had won the last game between them.
LMU was going to get their revenge tonight.
Their good shooting sealed it.
Portland's D (defense) may also have had some problems.

Aside from all that, the one player that stood out above everybody else trying to prove himself on the court tonight was Portland's small-statured Japanese player.
I don't think that I was playing favorites.
I think that if you asked an American, there wouldn't be many who would disagree.

He was very vocal from the start.
More so than any one else on the team.
He was clapping his hands, yelling, directing plays and communicating with his teammates trying to rouse the team from its struggles in the tough game.
He wasn't your typical "quiet Japanese".
I was able to see what he had learned in the 4 years after he had come to America as a high school freshman.

I can imagine the effort the put in.

He couldn't speak English at first.
He couldn't communicate his thoughts, but if he couldn't get them across, then it would be the same as if he wasn't there and the world would move around him and leave him behind.
It was the language that would allow him to make who he was known, and would
let him express himself.
He ventured ahead and got hurt, got depressed, and got over it.

There were probably days when things were uncertain when he couldn't answer whether he had chosen the right path.
It would have been easy to decide not to follow such a difficult path and then he wouldn't have so many stupid problems.
But the moment he decided to do so, the path would disappear.
So he kept moving ahead.
He fiercely held on.


After the game I had the chance to talk to him a bit.
What I got from it was that if there is a difference between Japanese and American basketball, and if the latter is the world standard, then it is really important to cross the ocean and accustom yourself to basketball in that country while you're young.
On top of that, the way to show how good a Japanese player you are is probably to "sell" yourself.
He didn't have a lot to say objectively about the differences between Japan and America.
Of course not.
That's because he's already become one with American basketball.
Because of that, he's already showing leadership as a freshman starter.

The first things he said where words of thanks for the trust his coaches and teammates have given him.
He won't forget his gratefulness to his parents for letting him go to America, and his brother who went to America first and opened his eyes.
That's the type of youth he was.

He is grateful for what he has, which gives him the courage to battle unafraid.
He knows the trials of battle, which deepens his gratefulness.

Which gives him the strength to venture forward again.


For me, the purpose of this trip was to go to where the recipient of the scholarship will go next year, to visit the school and the team, and to see what they are like with my own eyes so I can present them.
This is to give strength and encouragement to those who love basketball and who want to apply for the scholarship but who haven't taken a step to do so.

The bus won't come for those who just wait for it.
You have to raise your voice and call for it.

Have courage.

I'm waiting for you.

4 February 2007