つれづれの記

Slam Dunk Scholarship Travel Diary 2014 (Part 2)

January 26th

We’re flying from La Guardia airport to Dallas/Fort Worth airport.
From there, it’s an hour and a half by car to get to Durant, Oklahoma.
Good weather, refreshing skies.

2nd Annual Slam Dunk Scolarship recipient Daichi Taniguchi is playing for
Southeastern Oklahoma Status University (such a long name).

By the way, some of you may have heard of the university before.
It’s the alma mater of the peerless rebounder Dennis Rodman. His number,
#10, has been retired and hangs from the ceiling there.

We were worried because we had heard that he had sprained his ankle a few
days before, but he said it would be no problem playing in the game. That
turned out to be the case, and he was in fact introduced as a starter. I
got the feeling that he would do something good.

He gets free at the top of key beyond the 3p line, gets a pass and sinks his
first shot. He gets another 2 chances from nearly identical locations and
sinks those 3 pointers as well. Both he and his team have the momentum and
are off to a good 12-1 start.

Daichi was only a center in Japan, but since his time at Arizona Western
College, he has developed into a shooter to help his team. It’s just an
amateurish observation, but it appears that his arch has gotten higher than
it was 2 years ago. His form has become more natural as there is now less
wasted movement between catching and releasing. I’m guessing that he’s
improved through trial and error as he’s become more toughly defended as his
opponents started to recognize him as a shooter.

But, their early commanding lead disappears in the blink of an eye. They’re
letting small mistakes get to them, causing them to lose their form from
which they have a hard time recovering. It’s a pattern that you see with
many teams going through losing streaks. They started the season with 4
wins, but have since lost 10 in a row. The team has gotten mired in an
inexplicable rut.

Daichi gets into foul trouble but toughts it out. With 8 minutes left, he’s
already gets his 4th whistle, but doesn’t get any more after that. Even
when he gets benched, he comes back on court shortly after. The trust that
he received from his mentor and head coach at Arizon Western College and his
importance to the team is on display.

It’s a continuous battle for every point the rest of the game and I find
myself drawn in at some point and becoming purely a fan caught up in and
enjoying the emotional game. At the end, I was standing and clapping and
giving thanks that they had the good fortune to overcome and stop their
losing streak.

It’s been 5 years since he came to America. He had decided to red shirt
(only eligible to practice, but not appear in games) the previous year. I
wonder if he used that time to find his answers himself and grow stronger.
He’s got a big body with a warm and gentle heart that is a beautiful
unchanging aspect of him. But his face doesn’t show any strange
reservations or weaknesses on the court.

It was a happy night.

 

 

Takehiko Inoue

 

2014.01.30

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