Seoul American a lot bigger and probably better

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 Kubasaki's Isaiah Johnson dribbles against teammate Jared Eusebio.    Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes
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Kubasaki's Isaiah Johnson dribbles against teammate Jared Eusebio. Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes

Seoul American a lot bigger and probably better

by: Dave Ornauer | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: December 04, 2014

It was months before basketball practice even began. Yet there was Xavier McDaniel, a junior transfer from South Carolina, alternately hitting jumpers and driving to the basket in the cool of Seoul American’s air-conditioned Falcon Gym in late August.

Coach Jim Davis, who would bring McDaniel aboard his football team, asked the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder: “Can you dunk?”

“He looked at me like that was the dumbest question in the history of mankind,” Davis recalled.

But that also told Davis, who is also the Falcons’ first-year head basketball coach, that he had himself a find in the paint, joining the likes of senior veteran Shawn Horne and sophomore DeAndre Metcalf to form a frontcourt glut.

And with returning guards Max Weekley and Myles Haynes joined by newcomers A.J. Batts and Jez Harper, the Falcons have the deepest backcourt they’ve had in years, Davis said.

Might this have them thinking the league championship tournament title they just missed out on last year, and a first Far East Division I championship in six years?

“It depends on how they grasp the system and the flow of basketball,” said Davis, who assisted longtime coach Steve Boyd the last three years. “New blood. It’s going to depend on how quickly they gel.”

Though Horne is thinner than the brawny McDaniel, “we’ve had him the last two years and he’s finally ready to blossom,” Davis said. “I see Xavier being in the same spot next year.”

McDaniel has the athleticism, but he’s “still growing into his body,” Davis said. “He’s gotten bigger. Once that body catches up and he’s got the size,” he’ll be great, Davis said.

While the Falcons appear to be the favorites in Korea, Kubasaki is also seeking tournament redemption. After leading by eight points in the second quarter, Faith Academy stormed back and beat the Dragons on their home court 77-52 for its fourth Far East D-I title.

But it’s not something that ninth-year coach Jon Fick spends his time dwelling on.

“I’ve thought about that game maybe five times in the last year,” he said.

Had the game been lost by a couple of points, because of a botched play or a coaching error, it would have been different.

“We just met the wrong team on the wrong day,” Fick said. “If we meet that team nine other times, there might have been a different outcome.”

The Dragons bring back a solid core, led by senior Nick Ashley, augmented by an incoming group including junior forward Isaiah Johnson. “We have a good mix of experience and new guys,” Fick said. “We’ll be fine.”

The Division II side could be wide open now that the senior-laden group that paced Daegu to its first title since 1990 has departed. It’s far from your older brother’s Warriors team, coach Phillip Loyd said.

“I told the guys, they’re going to be treated like the younger brother of the older brother who graduated last spring,” Loyd said, adding, however, that he plans to be a contender by season’s end. “Get us early, because by the end of the year, we’re going to be a solid team.”

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

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