New-look Kubasaki, Kadena squads get first look at each other
It’s rare when the four most decorated DODEA basketball teams in the history of Far East Division I Tournaments all face some sort of rebuilding task all at the same time.
Both of Kadena’s teams are guard-dominated and have new post players who haven’t been fire-tested yet. Kubasaki’s girls only have one starter back. And the Dragons boys graduated eight seniors.
Quite a change for a Dragons girls team with nine D-I titles, Kadena’s girls with seven, Kadena’s boys with nine and Kubasaki’s boys with a tournament-record 12, including five in the last 10 years.
“Someone has always had some sort of advantage, two or three really dominant players, those teams have been head and shoulders above everybody else,” Kadena girls coach Willie Ware said. “This is not one of those seasons.”
All four get a chance to see where they stand when they take to the court at Kubasaki on Friday in the first of their four regular-season meetings. Kubasaki’s boys are the defending Okinawa champions, while Kadena’s girls have won the island title every season since 2004.
Ware said he’s OK with being in this situation: “This is where we get to shine as coaches.”
“We have to dig deep. We have players who are right there; it’s a matter of which direction they go. Practices become like classroom sessions. You emphasize fundamentals and build from there.”
In his four seasons in Panther black and yellow, senior guard Justin Wilson says he’s not seen a situation quite like this.
“We have to go in being confident, keep our heads up and play with some intensity and it should be good,” Wilson said. He’s averaged 35 points and 16 rebounds in Kadena’s first two games, both losses.
Kubasaki’s girls go in to Friday’s game with a home win over Zion Christian in which Chloe’ Stevens scored 23 for the Dragons. But she’s the only returning starter, which new coach Steven Casner says might lead to a Kadena strategy to shut her down.
“We’re growing but we don’t have a lot of experience,” Casner said.
At this point, Dragons boys coach Jon Fick said he’s not so much concerned with getting the W as he is getting the players to apply what they’ve learned in practice.
“We’re still in the infancy as far as our team,” Fick said. “We’re just trying to get better every day. If we win, so be it. We’ve got a good group. We’ve got some talent. We’ve got some good pieces. (But) it’s going to take time.”
Elsewhere, regular-season action begins on the courts in Korea, as defending Blue Division tournament champion Seoul American travels to Taejon Christian. Blue regular-season champion Humphreys hosts Seoul Foreign, having won its opener Wednesday against TCIS.
E.J. King’s unbeaten boys and girls basketball teams head to the Western Japan Athletic Association jamborees, boys at Canadian Academy and girls at Senri Osaka.