つれづれの記

Slam Dunk Scholarship Travel Diary 2014 (Part 3)

January 29th

It’s a smile that’s ready to burst. Words keep tumbling out one right after
another. It’s evidence of all the trial and obstacles that he’s gone
through as well as all the bright spots that he keeps finding.

We’re here to visit with Yukijiro Yashiro, the 3rd Annual Slam Dunk
Scholarship recipient, who is attending Allan Hancock College in Santa
Maria, California. Both teams are practicing before the game in the
brightly lit gym. He’s the smallest player on the team, but he’s bulked up
and has an air of reliability around him. He’s added a look of fierce
determination to his child-like face.

Yukijiro comes off the bench about 5 minutes into the game. I can tell that
he’s really fired up even from a distance. Maybe too fired up… His ball
handling is stiff and he makes several mistakes. He’s on the court twice in
the first half but despite getting a decent amount of playing time he can’t
loosen up. The first half ends with both teams tied.

Since we first met, he’s had an earnest, practical personality. At times,
these strong traits of his can manifest themselves in an undesirable
direction. I hope he can loosen up in the second half.

There’s a lady sitting in front starting to get agitated. She’s been loudly
stamping her feet and cheering since the beginning of the game whenever
there’s a lot of action. (We later found out she is the head coach’s wife.)
The momentum continues to go against Allan Hancock College for a while after
the start of the second half.

“Yuki” comes onto the court about 5 minutes in. You can see in his
expression that he’s finally loosened up and can play like normal. He sinks
an important 3 pointer from the corner in the middle of a lead expanding run
by their opponents. If he can make one more good play, they might be able
to shift the momentum back. Unfortunately he is benched right afterward.

They try to come back at the end, but it’s too little too late and Allan
Hancock College drops a home game that they could have won.

But Yukijiro was cheerful after the game. He’s become aware that he has a
tendency to take too much responsibility upon his back and retreat into a
tiny world by himself. Basketball is very important, but it isn’t his
entire life. When asked about what he wants to do now that it’s been 4
years since he came over, his eyes sparkle as he answers that there is still
a lot that he wants to experience here.

There’s something bigger, that wraps up all the fleeting ups and downs of
small wins and losses. It’s knowing the blissfullness of devotion to
basketball. To put it simply, it is the love of basketball.

Small wins and losses are important, but they are nothing more than a game.
There’s something more than that, and that is yourself. Being able to know
the bliss that is basketball.

Even in the middle of a desperate fight, if that big sense of self is by
him; put another way, if he has the ability to enjoy the moment, then his
earnestness can work in his favor and become a strong ally. What team
wouldn’t want a player like that?

I don’t think that any of the Slam Dunk Scholarhship recipients, in all the
places they are at, have had their futures unfold as they had imagined them
to. But they’ve all forged their own path in each of their respective
locations. The pressure of writing the story of their life has made them
stronger.

I don’t want to measure them using just one measure. I wouldn’t do
something so useless. Nobody knows how the days passing by now will connect
to the future.

I pray that he continues to put up a good fight. I pray that he has a lot
of good fortune.

I know that there are people out there praying with me right now. I thank
you, as always.

Takehiko Inoue

2014.01.31

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