The induction ceremony at Galveston Institute of Technology had just ended. Principal Jorge, a portly, friendly-looking man, had just given a long, passionate speech about Galveston Tech and how the students were going to be very happy in the vibrant and surreal atmosphere of the college.
Kobayashi Ichikawa couldn’t help but like this man.
The classes were fun too. Every professor at Galveston Tech seemed really nice and well-versed in their subject. They also tended to crack a lot of jokes during their lecture.
“I could get used to this!” thought Kobayashi happily.
His fellow students at the college were fascinated by him. Unlike some people, they didn’t care much about his height.
“You’re 5’4, and you play basketball?”
“Yeah,” said Kobayashi, suddenly fearing ridicule.
“That’s awesome, man! Go for it! Make it to the NBA!”
“Wow, they’re super friendly,” mused Kobayashi. “They speak to strangers like it’s nothing, and they’re super opinionated and express their thoughts so unabashedly! This is so different from Japan!”
Others, however, didn’t care about his basketball history or the fact he was there on an athletic scholarship.
“You’re Japanese? That’s so cool!”
“How is that cool?” asked Kobayashi, embarrassed.
“I love Japan, man!”
“I love sushi!”
“I love anime and manga!”
“Oh yeah, I love anime and manga too! Do you watch any anime or read any manga?”
“Sometimes,” answered Kobayashi.
“Is real basketball anything like anime basketball?” one of his classmates joked.
“Absolutely not,” said Kobayashi firmly. “The game is so fast, you barely have time to think. Let alone recollect your past!”
Kobayashi swiped his phone to receive his mother’s call. “Hello, mom?”
“Kobayashi! How are you? How’s college? Are the Americans bothering you?” she asked worriedly.
“Definitely not, mom. They’re super-friendly and expressive! I think I’ll make many friends here! Plus, it’s not all Americans. We have some Chinese, Nigerians, and Australians in our class! There’s even a guy from Sri Lanka!”
Hiroko Ichikawa was pleased to know that her son had adapted quickly to the new environment.
“That’s great, Kobayashi. When are basketball team try-outs?”
“In three days,” replied Kobayashi. “I can’t wait, mom! American college basketball is probably on a whole different level!”
“I heard that they play rough,” said Hiroko. “Watch out, Kobayashi.”
Kobayashi smiled. “I’ll be fine, mom. I won’t be alone on the court after all!”
Basketball team try-outs were scheduled at 4 PM on Thursday. Kobayashi was extremely pumped-up and restless. He raced to the gym, hoping to reach there early. He pushed open the door of the gym and gulped.
It was huge. Bigger than any gym He’d ever been to before. He stepped inside, gawking at the ceiling. Unfortunately, he didn’t watch where he was going and stumbled into someone hard.
“Sorry, I’m so sorry!” apologized Kobayashi profusely. He looked at the person he’d bumped into and gasped.
The guy was gigantic. Taller than anyone Kobayashi had ever seen before. Looking around the gym, Kobayashi spotted two more giants lumbering around with basketballs grasped tightly in their hands.
“What are you doing here? This is for basketball players!” said the guy.
“Oh, I’m a player too, a point-guard. Sorry for bumping into you.”
“Holy Moses! You’re a player? Hey guys! Take a look at this guy! He’s probably 4’11 and he’s a basketball player!”
“Oh my God! You’re right!” said five other guys, including the other giant, crowding around Kobayashi.
“Umm, I’m 5’4,” said Kobayashi. “And I received an athletic scholarship!”
“You’re 5’4,” said the guy. “And you play basketball of all sports?”
“Umm, yeah. I love the game!” said Kobayashi defiantly.
“What’s your name, 5’4?”
The team stood silently, staring at Kobayashi. Then, they stared at each other, confused.
The guy who got bumped by Kobayashi, however, cracked a wide grin. “Well hello, Kobayashi Ichikawa! I’m Chad Brown! I’m the captain of Galveston Tech’s boys’ basketball team! Nice to meet you! We badly need a point-guard, since our point-guard went to the NBA! Glad you’re here!”
Kobayashi smiled back. “Nice to meet you, Chad!”
After a few weeks of practice, Kobayashi built a great friendship with Chad Brown. Chad was a native of Houston and was very passionate about Houston Basketball.
“The Spacewalkers haven’t won in seventy seven years, man! But you know what? I’m going to change that! I hope I get drafted by the Spacewalkers and help end the curse!”
“Help end the curse? Why not end the curse yourself?” asked Kobayashi.
“I’m a mountain of talent, Koi, but I’m no franchise player! I know my limits! But I swear, the day I meet a franchise player, I’ll give him my hundred-and-ten percent and help win a championship!”
“That’s great,” said Kobayashi. “Don’t call me Koi. Sounds like the Koi fishes we put in ponds!”
Chad laughed. “Sorry! I’ll get you ice cream later to make up for it!”
"Suit yourself," said Kobayashi.
“By the way, Kobayashi. The NCAA tournament will start soon, man. We have a practice game coming up!” said Chad.
“Great, who’re we playing against?”
Chad’s face dropped.
“What’s the matter?” asked Kobayashi.
“The University of Manhattan! We’ll be travelling to New York to play them!”
“That’s great! I’ve always wanted to see Times Square!” said Kobayashi.
“That’s not it, man. Manhattan University has always had amazing players. But this time, they outdid themselves. They recruited one of the best prospects out of high school. He can crush teams single-handedly!”
“But you’re so tall!” said Kobayashi encouragingly. “Use that to your advantage!”
“I’m 6’10, man. That dude is 6’11! He’s too good for the likes of us! Not to mention the other players on their roster!”
“Who’s this guy you’re so scared of, Chad?”
Chad looked Kobayashi dead in the eyes and took a deep breath.
“Odai Beckham Jr,” he said. “He’s a beast!”
Before I conclude, I’d like to congratulate Priya Mallik for winning the gold medal in the 73 kg world title at the Cadet World Championships in Budapest. You’ve made your country proud! Salute!