By Michael Cruz
College basketball season is underway and for fans like me it’s exciting. The freshmen class has it least seven potential lottery picks: #1 Andrew Wiggins, #2 Jabari Parker, #5 Julius Randle, #7 James Young, #9 Joel Embid, and #13 Andrew Harrison. I’m really excited though about Guam’s #1 incoming freshman. Standing 6’5 and weighing 205 lbs from Asan, Guam, introducing Chaminade’s Michael Sakazaki! He is Guam’s only current college basketball player. The former FD Friar was eager to answer some questions for GSPN.
GSPN: Thanks for taking time out to chat with us. So how are your first semester classes and basketball practices going?
MS: School is going great. Chaminade University is a great school both academically and athletically. This semester I took eight classes and five of them being biology, since being a BioChem major. The classroom sizes are very small and it helps to the student’s advantage because the students get to have that one-on-one with the professor. Basketball has just been amazing. It is a whole new experience and playing at a very high level. I have 16 teammates including myself and four of them just transferred from Division I schools this past fall. Playing a collegiate sport is amazing, especially being from Guam, it gives the young athletes the hope and mindset that if I could do it so can they. We have amazing athletes back home and I know for a fact all of them have a chance at a college sport.
GSPN: That’s very encouraging words Michael and we are proud of your accomplishments on and off the court. Your one of six true freshmen on the team. Are you planning on redshirting or contributing on the court this season?
MS: As of right now there are three out of six freshmen redshirting, but as of right now and talking to my coaches, I will not be redshirting this year and actually will be heading off to Maui during Thanksgiving week for the annual Maui Invitational.
GSPN: Excellent, your first game was against #25 Baylor and you guys will look to play spoiler. Chaminade upset Texas in the tournament last year. Who are your best returning players?
MS: The thing with our team that I never encountered in any other team I have been a part of is each player can be a starter! Our team is deep and at practices it gets very competitive because of the skill level each player brings to the table. Anyone could really be a starter. We have a phenomenal team.
GSPN: Nice, so Baylor should be on upset alert. I saw transfer Christophe Varidel play for Florida Gulf Coast during their Sweet 16 run. So Michael how has your game improved from one year ago?
MS: Well I am starting all over from scratch, players here are bigger, stronger and faster. Back home I was playing the center position, but now playing the small forward and power forward position, I am learning more about the game and what each position has to offer. It is a great experience that I am encountering and blessed to have the opportunity to even be playing at a higher level than high school basketball.
GSPN: Your first two games are versus Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s, respectively. The Maui Invitational will be on ESPN November 25-27 or further depending on how the Silverswords play. Pac West Conference play starts in early December and concludes with conference tournament in San Diego around early March. Win the tournament and you go to the Division II tournament. Definitely a longer grind than 3rd quarter basketball on Guam. In closing who do you want to thank, any encouraging words for Guam youth basketball, and what can we expect from Michael Sakazaki this season?
MS: It is definitely a longer season. We have been conditioning since August 29 and started real practices on October 15 and we were very excited to play our first game! I would love to first thank my dad, mom, brother David, Nana, Tata, and all my family, and friends for all the love and support. I would also like to thank coaches Tony Thompson, Eddie Pelkey, Jimmie Yi, Andrew Eusebio all at Father Duenas Memorial School who taught me everything I needed to know and believing in me. Also I like to thank coach Brent Tipton for all the work he has done with the junior national program, as well as both the junior and senior national teams for helping me with my game and being role models I could look up too.
Words for the young athletes are to focus in school and listen to your parents. Believe it or not your parents have your best interest at hand and would do anything for you. Also always look up and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t make it. Believe in yourself and work hard because one day if you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want! The whole island has your back and supports you!
This season you can expect a player to give all he has and play with heart on and off the court. Just being given the opportunity has been a truly great blessing and thank God and Coach Bovaird here at Chaminade for giving me this chance and opportunity and believing in me. I would also like to thank the Folta family for being a second family to me and supporting me in all that I do. Oh and lastly like to thank Guam Basketball Confederation and Guam National Olympic Committee for all they have done for the welfare for our local athletes.
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