Chapter 20:

A Fresh Start


GalvestonBookmark here

Houston, TexasBookmark here

USABookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Kobayashi Ichikawa couldn’t help but like this man.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“I could get used to this!” thought Kobayashi happily.Bookmark here

His fellow students at the college were fascinated by him. Unlike some people, they didn’t care much about his height.Bookmark here

“You’re 5’4, and you play basketball?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” said Kobayashi, suddenly fearing ridicule.Bookmark here

“That’s awesome, man! Go for it! Make it to the NBA!”Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

Others, however, didn’t care about his basketball history or the fact he was there on an athletic scholarship.Bookmark here

“You’re Japanese? That’s so cool!”Bookmark here

“How is that cool?” asked Kobayashi, embarrassed.Bookmark here

“I love Japan, man!”Bookmark here

“Me too!”Bookmark here

“I love sushi!”Bookmark here

“I love anime and manga!”Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, I love anime and manga too! Do you watch any anime or read any manga?”Bookmark here

“Sometimes,” answered Kobayashi.Bookmark here

“Is real basketball anything like anime basketball?” one of his classmates joked.Bookmark here

“Absolutely not,” said Kobayashi firmly. “The game is so fast, you barely have time to think. Let alone recollect your past!”Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

Kobayashi swiped his phone to receive his mother’s call. “Hello, mom?”Bookmark here

“Kobayashi! How are you? How’s college? Are the Americans bothering you?” she asked worriedly.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

Hiroko Ichikawa was pleased to know that her son had adapted quickly to the new environment.Bookmark here

“That’s great, Kobayashi. When are basketball team try-outs?”Bookmark here

“In three days,” replied Kobayashi. “I can’t wait, mom! American college basketball is probably on a whole different level!”Bookmark here

“I heard that they play rough,” said Hiroko. “Watch out, Kobayashi.”Bookmark here

Kobayashi smiled. “I’ll be fine, mom. I won’t be alone on the court after all!”Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Sorry, I’m so sorry!” apologized Kobayashi profusely. He looked at the person he’d bumped into and gasped.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“What are you doing here? This is for basketball players!” said the guy.Bookmark here

“Oh, I’m a player too, a point-guard. Sorry for bumping into you.”Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“Oh my God! You’re right!” said five other guys, including the other giant, crowding around Kobayashi.Bookmark here

“Umm, I’m 5’4,” said Kobayashi. “And I received an athletic scholarship!”Bookmark here

“You’re 5’4,” said the guy. “And you play basketball of all sports?”Bookmark here

“Umm, yeah. I love the game!” said Kobayashi defiantly.Bookmark here

“What’s your name, 5’4?”Bookmark here

“Kobayashi Ichikawa.”Bookmark here

The team stood silently, staring at Kobayashi. Then, they stared at each other, confused.Bookmark here

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!”Bookmark here

Kobayashi smiled back. “Nice to meet you, Chad!”Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“Help end the curse? Why not end the curse yourself?” asked Kobayashi.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“That’s great,” said Kobayashi. “Don’t call me Koi. Sounds like the Koi fishes we put in ponds!”Bookmark here

Chad laughed. “Sorry! I’ll get you ice cream later to make up for it!”Bookmark here

"Suit yourself," said Kobayashi.Bookmark here

“By the way, Kobayashi. The NCAA tournament will start soon, man. We have a practice game coming up!” said Chad.
Bookmark here

“Great, who’re we playing against?”Bookmark here

Chad’s face dropped. Bookmark here

“What’s the matter?” asked Kobayashi.Bookmark here

“The University of Manhattan! We’ll be travelling to New York to play them!”Bookmark here

“That’s great! I’ve always wanted to see Times Square!” said Kobayashi.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“But you’re so tall!” said Kobayashi encouragingly. “Use that to your advantage!”Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“Who’s this guy you’re so scared of, Chad?”Bookmark here

Chad looked Kobayashi dead in the eyes and took a deep breath.Bookmark here

“Odai Beckham Jr,” he said. “He’s a beast!”Bookmark here

Author’s NoteBookmark here

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!Bookmark here

~srj5Bookmark here

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