📅29 August 2013
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The 2013 Pacific Mini Games Wallis & Futuna will play out this weekend and two of Guam’s best male volleyball players will represent Guam in the beach volleyball tournament. Jimmy Boonprakong and Chris Shepherd serve it up with GSPN on tournament details and just how well the two plan on working together.

Jimmy Boonkrapong and Chris Shepherd. (photo by Jose Perez)

Jimmy Boonprakong and Chris Shepherd. (photo by Jose Perez)

Name:  Jimmy Boonprakong
Age: 36
Village: Tumon
Vball Experience: Started playing on the beach since I was 16 in Guam at the Tahiti Rama Beach Bar.
GBVF tournaments
CBVA beach tournaments
Marianas Cup Pro-am tournaments
Hawaii Open Beach Tournaments

Name: Chris Shepherd
Age: 45
Village: Tumon
Vball Experience: Been playing volleyball for over 25 years. Played in college at the University of Hawaii. Played a few pro beach tournaments in Hawaii when I was a lot younger.

GSPN: How long have you played with Jimmy/Shep (how many tourney’s in the past), etc.?

JIMMY: We have only played in one tournament together, which was the Marianas Cup Pro-am, which is held every year in February.  In the past, we would always have games against each other. So it’s a little different have Shep on the same side as I.

SHEPHERD: Jimmy and I started playing together earlier this year at the 2013 Marianas Cup. This will be our 2nd big event playing together.

GSPN: When did you guys decide to play in the mini-games? Did you have to qualify?

JIMMY: There was a series of qualifier tournaments held several months ago played King of the Beach style that would help us earn points to qualify for the Pacific Games.  Since we both qualified and decided to put in the time we thought we would have a go at it.

SHEPHERD: We talked about playing in the Mini-Games during the Marianas Cup. The thing is, we had to qualify as individuals first. The GVBF hosted a series of “King of the Beach” qualifying tournaments. At these events, basically, you play with everyone else and earn points based on how you finish. After the 10 qualifying events Jimmy and I were ranked #1 and #2.

Chris Shepherd getting above the net for hard spike. (photo by Jose Perez)

Chris Shepherd getting above the net for hard spike. (photo by Jose Perez)

GSPN: Why Jimmy/Shep and not any other player?

JIMMY: It’s an honor to play with Shep as he has a lot of experience indoors and on the beach. He is also really easy to play with and it gives me a chance to learn a lot more about the game from his experiences.  It’s also really great to have a player taller than me that can really put the ball away.

SHEPHERD: Of all the eligible players, Jimmy was the obvious choice. He is a great player!

GSPN: What are his strengths and weaknesses? What are yours?

JIMMY: Shep is a powerful hitter as well as a massive blocker… so that makes my job a lot easier but that also means I get a lot of the serves. I don’t think I have any technique that I’m particularly good at. I just love playing volleyball and playing 2-man has just helped me be decent at every technique, whether it be serving, setting, hitting, or digging.   Shep doesn’t have much of a weakness in his game. the only thing holding him back sometimes is when his knee or back starts hurting, but nothing that Motrin can’t fix. My weaknesses are everything my strengths are not, if that makes sense.

SHEPHERD: Jimmy has a really solid all-around game. He has a tough serve. He is tall and puts up a good block. Most of all, he has really good ball control. As for me, my strengths, I guess, would be my blocking and experience. As for weaknesses, I can’t talk about that. What if our competition sees this piece? I don’t want to give anything away.

Jimmy Boon

Jimmy Boonprakong practicing his spikes. (photo by Jose Perez)

GSPN: How has your game evolved from your college and varsity league days?

JIMMY: I never played high school or college volleyball. I would just play pickup games at the beach and watch and learn from all the better players. So you could say I was just self-taught through a lot of my beach volleyball friends.

SHEPHERD: I think my ball control has improved, as I can’t rely on jumping 37 inches and just pounding the ball anymore. Playing on the beach demands a player to work on all the skills of the game. You have to be able to serve, pass, set, hit, block, and dig.

GSPN: How much time have you spent on the sand since the start of training?

JIMMY: I have been at the beach just about every day since we started training. We would train in the mornings at 6:30am and then in the afternoon/evenings depending on everyone’s schedule. We have been lucky to have other local great players like Shintaro Okada and Brian Mantanane help us with our training sessions.

SHEPHERD: We have put in a lot of time on the sand. Since June we have been at the beach every morning from 6:30am to 8:30am. We would also practice again in the afternoon from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, usually on Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s depending on everyone’s schedule. Many of the local players have been such a big help with our training. Shintaro Okada has been there every morning to serve and hit balls at us. Brian Mantanane has been helping with drills. All the regular players at The Beach have been so supportive, whether serving/hitting at us, helping us shag balls to get in more touches, and playing games.

GSPN: Who’s the expected competition in these Games?

JIMMY: I believe there are 12 expected countries.

SHEPHERD: Fiji, Tahiti, PNG, New Caledonia, Tonga, and Wallis & Futuna have always done well in volleyball at the Games. Cook Islands had a really good team at the 2011 Pacific Games if they come.

The pair working on ball location. (photo by Jose Perez)

The pair working on ball location. (photo by Jose Perez)

GSPN: Wallis & Futuna: done any research on the place? What are you looking forward to the most there outside of volleyball?

JIMMY: I don’t know much about Wallis & Futuna, just that it is a French island somewhere between Fiji and Samoa. So, it will be interesting to experience the people and the culture there. Hopefully we have time to do some sight seeing or experience some of the things that the locals enjoy doing.

SHEPHERD: I know very little about Wallis & Futuna. I’m just looking forward to experiencing and learning about another island in the South Pacific. I feel very fortunate to have grown up on Guam and been afforded the opportunities to represent my home across the region.

GSPN: How much of your game has changed over the last 10 years?

JIMMY: I think I’ve become a more consistent player overall.  I’ve been able to break a lot of bad habits thru better technique.  The game just gets more fun when you can play at a higher level. There will always be much to learn about the game to be a better player that it keeps me coming out to learn more.

SHEPHERD: Honestly, not much of my game has changed. I think I may be more consistent of a player now. I feel like I’m in better shape right now then 10 years ago, so that’s a good thing.

GSPN: When are you guys leaving and when’s competition? Who are the girls going?

JIMMY: We are supposed to leave Sept 1st.  The Pacific Games are between Sept 2-12.  I’m not sure of the exact date when we are playing. The girls that are traveling with us are Kendra Byrd and Tatiana Sablan.  They are the best girls beach team we have and they are also really talented indoor players.

SHEPHERD: We leave September 1st. I believe the competition will be during the 1st week of the Games, starting on September 4th. The girl’s representing Guam are Tatiana Sablan and Kendra Byrd.

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