Rich get richer as Kubasaki reloads

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Among Kadena boys basketball newcomers to the varsity are Tamaan Ruffin (with ball) and defender Nicholas Laney. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)
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Among Kadena boys basketball newcomers to the varsity are Tamaan Ruffin (with ball) and defender Nicholas Laney. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Rich get richer as Kubasaki reloads

by: Dave Ornauer | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: December 04, 2015

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – There are times when coaches curse what they call the PCS Plane that carries away players who otherwise might finish their high school careers in one spot.

There are other times when they kiss the very ground the fictional plane’s landing gear rolls on.

Call Jon Fick among the latter as the 2015-16 Pacific boys basketball season begins. From Europe and the States, his Kubasaki Dragons have assembled a wealth of inbound talent to add to key elements of their 2014-15 Far East Division I tournament title run.

“We’ve got a lot of returning guys with basketball knowledge, but we also have some guys, some seniors, who came in with knowledge from other places,” said Fick, who has four D-I tournament titles to his credit as he enters his 10th season at Kubasaki’s helm.

Practice can be something of an exercise in confusion, as two of the newcomers bear the same first name and are almost equal in height – Connor Howlett, 6-foot-3, from Patch High in Stuttgart, Germany; and Connor Richardson, 6-4, from Chaparral High in Temecula, Calif. Stephen Nowell is another Europe transfer, from Naples, Italy.

They join four players named to the All-Far East D-I team following Kubasaki’s 76-64 championship win over Kadena on the Dragons’ home court: Forwards Imani Washington, Skylor Stevens and Matt Ashley and guard Jacob Green, all seniors.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that in a Kubasaki program since Marcus Carson,” Fick said of the guard who paced the Dragons to the D-I tournament semifinals 10 years ago, just before he took over the team.

It’s not so much the titles he’s won since 2006-07, but the ones that got away, Fick said. He feels it could have been as many as seven, perhaps eight, championships for Kubasaki in his time in charge.

“We felt we were in position to win,” Fick said.

It’s a matter of building up throughout the course of the season to where the Dragons peak as championship week begins, he said.

“We do a lot of things differently in December than we do in January or February,” Fick said. “We’re trying to build up so that we can be our best the second or third week of February.”

One Kubasaki property did get away to Kadena, Jahron Mitchell, a junior and younger brother of now-Arizona football player Jarrett Mitchell. He joins a Panthers squad featuring All-Far East forward Justin Wilson and two other returners, Isaiah Richardson and Jeremiah Steed.

It’s a Panthers team with little height, though.

While Kadena is heavy on guards, the same can’t be said of reigning D-II champion Yokota, which lost its senior backcourt tandem of Jermaine Neal and Jadan Anderson.

Still, the Panthers have a solid core of returners in seniors Marcus Henagan and Jam Harvey and juniors Shota Sprunger and Hunter Cort; it’s a question of how much depth they’ll have, and they’ll have a new coach in Dan Galvin, who helmed the JV the last few seasons under Paul Ettl.

“”End of an era,” Galvin said. “I’m not sure if it’s the start of a new one. I’m not sure how much depth we’ll have, but we’ll see what we have early out of the box.”

Matthew C. Perry is hoping to take that one final step, which it will try to accomplish having lost graduated All-Far East players Jon Cadavos, a guard, and Jarell Davis, a forward. But there’s plenty left in the cupboard for coach Dewayne Pigge’, including guard Vincent Ermitano.

Pigge’ and the Samurai lost a two-game D-II final to Yokota 58-48 and 78-50, on Perry’s home court. “Our team (has) an intention to accomplish our unfinished goal,” Pigge’ said.

Ornauer.dave@stripes.com

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