Friday, I made my way to the campus involvement carnival with Masami to see what I could get into. I had many encounters with the spokespersons of the clubs and circles, which all ended in mutual misunderstandings due to my ignorance of the language. I wasn’t too concerned because I knew I wouldn’t have much time for clubs and such due to the intensity of my schedule. This was the case until I came across the club basketball team called “バスケチーム,” which translates as “Basketball Team”…very original. Anyways, I was glad to see that some people do play basketball in Japan. I wanted to join, so to avoid any miscommunications, I brought Masami to the table. They were super excited to have a foreigner join, and they were impressed that I have played for so many years as most of them first touched a basketball in college. I signed up, gave them my email, and agreed to meet them at the main entrance of campus at 12:30 the next day for a full four hours of play.
I showed up on time and met with some of the other players. I was capable of introducing myself and answering any basic questions they asked with little difficulty. I had no idea what was going on with when, where, and how we were going to play. After attempting to understand 20 minutes of conversation about how we were getting to the gym, I was asked to get in a car. We drove to another University for a competitive tournament in which our university would be represented by three teams, and the home school with two teams. Without realizing it, I think I signed up for a serious club team that travels for games! I still do not know the whole story because they have not emailed me since I played.
Anyways, we arrived and all of the Japanese people began eating while they were getting their shoes on…strange. Everyone took forever to get ready, and slowly people began joining in on a ridiculous passing drill that involved heaving the ball across the entire gym. At this point I came to the conclusion that whatever I was about to take part in was going to be much different from the game I call basketball, and I was right.
They just play the game so differently, at first I had a hard time telling if they were playing around or being serious. They play completely reserved, not attempting any offensive drives, picks, or real defense. I just tried to get a feel for the game, taking some uncontested jump shots, getting some rebounds and moving the ball across the key. We played short games to 10, and after just a few minutes the first game had ended with us winning.
I observed a couple more games and then decided to just go all out and see what happens. The next game was real fun. I was driving to the hoop and everyone would just move out of the way and give me the layup. There were a couple of kids who would play some defense, but no one ever went for a steal or a block. I started setting picks, and they would throw the ball at my chest, not knowing what was going on. After a while some of the better players picked up on it and started stepping around and taking shots. I had two people that would work with the screen, so I decided to try a pick and roll. It worked beautifully. Scored 8 of the 10 points in once game due to this move. I was pulling down so many offensive rebounds too. Not only did my more developed knowledge of basketball give me an advantage, but I felt like I was having a great day. Hitting threes and jump shots frequently doesn’t usually happen for me even uncontested. All in all, everyone was glad to have me play with them, and I think they learned a bit about the game too. Everyone also admired the spin on my shot, as not many were able to do so. Very cool experience, but because I don’t have a phone, I have no way of contacting them for a schedule. I guess I will just hope I see one of them on campus in the next few days.
Tomorrow, the opening ceremony for the Intensive Japanese Course will be held. I have to get all dressed up and give a short talk introducing myself, giving my age and home country in Japanese. Just a tad nervous. I’m pretty excited to get the ball rolling with my courses though. A lot of Japanese that I learned in the past has come rushing back, but the frustration of not being able to carry on decent conversations is getting to me. Here we go!