The Layup Drill — A Year of Linsanity, catfishing, a swim legend in the making, and the death of a Judo legend

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look back (and forward) at Linsanity, revisit the Manti Te’o saga, and catch up on the odds and ends in sports.

Remembering Linsanity

Last February, Jeremy Lin burst on the scene and changed the landscape of Asian American basketball forever. Jeremy Lin got off the New York Knicks bench and moved off his brother’s couch to become an overnight success.

Since last February, Lin became the NBA poster child for roughly 6 weeks, hurt his knee, and missed the playoffs, got a huge raise, drew criticism from Knicks fans when he left for Houston, and is now “Lin-iocre” in Houston. While he’s been a steady, yet average point guard for the Rockets, Lin’s legacy still grew off the court when a new documentary about his life screened at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Jeremy Lin made an appearance with the filmmakers at the premiere to support the documentary.

Although my prediction of Lin playing in the NBA All-Star game this year was off, he still participated in the NBA Skills competition Saturday night. A year after Lin’s dramatic ascension, he’s seemed to fall back as just a starting point guard on an average team.  His individual numbers are not as good as last season’s, and his team struggles to make the playoffs. But, despite the lack of hype, Linsanity was a good ride while it lasted.

While we are still fans of Lin, maybe we should look at a couple guys that could be next to unexpectedly dazzle the NBA.

Peyton Siva — Someone that has not been mentioned in this column is University of Louisville’s senior point guard, Peyton Siva. Siva, a Samoan American, was born and raised in Seattle and attended Franklin High School. Growing up in the inner city had its ills as many can imagine. Drugs, gangs, and crime were all a part of his life. But instead of falling into that trap, Siva put all of his effort and time into sports.

Siva’s father was addicted to drugs and was in and out of his son’s life. Siva went out one night to look for his father and found him in a drug den. His father contemplated suicide, but Siva was able to successfully talk him out of it.

Siva left Seattle to play for a national powerhouse at the University of Louisville. He has excelled starting for the Cardinals and will be a big part of their effort to make a run in the NCAA tournament this year. Siva should get a good shot at trying to make an NBA team next year and if he does make it, he would be the only Samoan American player in the league.

Chris Tang

Chris Tang — Oak Hill Academy is more of a basketball factory than it is a prep school. It is tucked away in Mouth of Wilson, Va., where all a student can do is play basketball and go to school.

Originally from China, Tang came to the United States under the care of a foster family.  His family in China sent him to the United States, so that he could follow his dream of playing basketball. Before attending prep school, Tang went to school in Newport News, Va. where he dominated high school hoops in the area.  The 6’3″ guard is fielding offers from many east coast colleges, including Harvard — Lin’s alma mater.

Tang’s game is not unlike Linsanity’s. He attacks the rim with fearless abandon and throws down dunks with ease. Of course, this is high school and Lin has to deal with the pros, so a straight on comparison wouldn’t be fair to Tang or Lin.  But, if we were to look for the next great Asian basketball player, it may be Tang.

While Tang understands the comparisons to Linsanity, he favors Dwayne Wade as his source of basketball inspiration. Well, Wade and Yao Ming, of course, as Ming is the overarching hero for many — perhaps all — basketball players from China.

Wang looking to sell NHL’s Islanders

Charles Wang

Charles Wang is looking to sell his hockey team, the New York Islanders, but let’s not get too excited about buying an NHL team for Seattle. It appears as though Wang would like to sell his team and move it from Long Island to Brooklyn. He hopes to move to the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. So, while he’s not moving it across the country, he is displacing the team in order to move west.

We have talked about Wang here before.  He’s not the most likeable owner, and selling his team will be a task. The New York Islanders are second to last in NHL attendance and a $75 million loan is due this year. With the NHL locked out half of the season and poor attendance, he won’t be able to look to ticket sales as a method to pay off the loan. Good luck finding a buyer.

Na makes Australian Open Final

For the second time in the past three years, Chinese women’s tennis player Li Na made the finals of the Australian Open. Unfortunately for Na, she turned her ankle in the championship match against the No. 1 player in the world, Victoria Azarenka. While Na won the first set, she dropped the next two sets.  Na hurt her ankle in the second set and was granted a medical timeout to see if she could continue. In the third set, Na fell on the court and hit her head.  Fortunately, she was able to continue to finish the match.

Despite losing, Na showed heart and determination, continuing on after two significant injuries. It was a valiant effort, especially against the top player in the world.

Te’o recovers from catfish

When we last left the drama from the former Notre Dame linebacker, he was “catfished” by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

The term “catfish” refers to someone creating a persona on social media via Facebook or Twitter in order to deceive someone.

Through this bizarre story, the world realized one of three things:

1) Te’o was the victim of a hoax that spiraled out of control;

2) Or, Te’o realized something that many middle school boys have found out. While dating an imaginary girlfriend sounds great for a while, there comes a time when people find out;

3) Or, maybe a newborn baby is not as naive as Manti Te’o.

We are all still confused about why such a nice and popular guy like Te’o would not meet a girl in person for so long, yet call her his girlfriend.

For his part, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has found his 15 minutes of fame.  Thank you daytime talk show host and Oprah protege, Dr. Phil. The man that claimed he was Lennay Kekua even recreated the voice for Dr. Phil. Apparently, Tuiasosopo could not quit Te’o and revealed having feelings for Te’o after initializing the relationship.

Te’o tried to do some damage control as his focus should be preparing for the NFL Draft in April. He wore a light-colored cardigan and appeared with his parents on Katie Couric’s daytime talk show. Te’o professed his innocence and eventually broke down and cried along with his parents. Truly an embarrassing scene for all involved.

Certainly the jokes have been told and the pictures of people sitting with Lennay Kekua (the photos show them sitting next to an empty chair) have gone around social media. Te’o has been put through the fire of the media. As a rookie in the NFL, Te’o will not hear the end of this odd off-season story.  He will not only be picked on for having an imaginary girlfriend, but for the fact that the girlfriend actually turned out to be a guy.

Eastlake’s Kim sets record

Congratulations goes out to Eastlake High School’s Edward Kim.  Kim was named Swimmer of the Meet this year at the 4A Boys State meet at the King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way. As a freshman, Kim won two state titles for individual swim events. As a sophomore, he won four. This year as a junior, Kim won two titles in addition to the Swimmer of the Meet award for the second straight year.  There’s no ceiling for this high schooler.  Move over Nathan Adrian, we may see Kim in the Olympics one day.

Keiko Fukuda

Keiko Fukuda, the highest-ranked woman in the sport of Judo, passed away at the age of 99 on Feb. 9.  Her grandfather was a Japanese samurai and one of his students developed the martial art. Fukuda was invited to join a women’s Judo class in Tokyo in the early 1930s — a rarity at the time. She loved the sport, and it came second to no man. In fact, when she learned that she would have to give it up for an arranged marriage, she refused.

Fukuda traveled to the United States in 1953 to teach the sport.  She returned to Tokyo and demonstrated the sport at the 1964 Summer Olympics.  Eventually, Fukuda returned to the United States and lived and taught in San Francisco. She eventually became a U.S. citizen.

Through the years, she was promoted in rank in Judo and eventually earned the highest rank ever for a woman — 10th dan.

A documentary was made on her life entitled, “Mrs. Judo.”  Let’s all find it and pay homage to a true pioneer of the sport. (end)

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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