American and Japanese youth play in a basketball tournament Feb 17. 2019 at Renaissance Sports Club, Nakagami, Okinawa Japan. The friendly games were held to give youth the opportunity to compete and enjoy basketball across cultures. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Priest)
American and Japanese youth play in a basketball tournament Feb 17. 2019 at Renaissance Sports Club, Nakagami, Okinawa Japan. The friendly games were held to give youth the opportunity to compete and enjoy basketball across cultures. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Priest)

American and Japanese youth on Okinawa compete in friendly basketball tournament

by Lance Cpl. Brennan Priest
Marine Corps Installations Pacific

NAKAGAMI, OKINAWA, Japan— American and Japanese youth basketball teams played against each other Feb. 17 at Renaissance Sports Club, Nakagami, Okinawa Japan.

The friendly games were meant to give youth a time to compete and enjoy the sport of basketball together across cultures. They showcased sportsmanship and teamwork. This was an opportunity for the kids to experience different play styles and variations of rules said Master Gunnery Sgt. Elonzo Higginson, the American team coach.

“It is important to build comradery.“ Said Gerald Sharber, the Single Marine program manager. “Basketball is fun for all kids, having the teams from different countries opened up the game for interaction and enjoyment between cultures.”

The friendly games symbolize the friendship that our nations have.

“This was a partnership.” Said Sharber. “Kunio Arakaki, the mayor of Kitanakagusuku Village and Col. Vincent Ciuccoli, the Commanding Officer with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler reached out to the Single Marine Program. With the help of Master Gunnery Sgt. Higginson we formed the team, practiced and came out to play basketball.”

The teams were made up of 9 to 11-year-old boys. The American team was comprised of players from the recently ended MCCS basketball season while the Japanese team was made up of players from local Okinawa schools.

“This is the first year that we have held this event.” Said Lt. Col. David Donnell, the Executive Officer with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler. “I think the hope for everyone involved is that the tournaments continue, that we keep this going.”

The games built on the relationship of the Marine Corps Bases and the communities of Okinawa. Having teams from different cultures expanded the interactions that the youth have.

“The players did excellently.” Said Master Gunnery Sgt Higginson. “They had a smile on their face, came out here, competed and had fun. I couldn’t have wished for anything better.”

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