Cal Poly Pomona Camp Goes International

Cal Poly Pomona Camp Goes International
Head Coach Paul Thomas gives Mari Watanabe, left and Tomoka Nakada, 16 year olds from Tokyo, shooting tips at the Cal Poly Pomona Girls' Basketball Camp for youngsters ages 7-17.
Head Coach Paul Thomas shows Japanese campers Mari Watanabe, left and Tomoka Nakada the proper shooting form at Cal Poly Pomona Girls' Basketball Camp.
Mari Watanabe, a 16 year old visitor from Japan, drives towards the hoop during a scrimmage at the Cal Poly Pomona Girls' Basketball Camp.

Cal Poly Pomona's women's basketball summer camp is branching out — and not just in California.

The Broncos' summer camp, for girls between the ages of 7-17, attracted a record 127 players to the Cal Poly Pomona campus this week, including a pair of 16-year-olds from Tokyo, Japan. The week-long camp, which concludes Friday, has also brought in several youngsters for the first time from the San Diego area.

The back-to-back NCAA Division II national championships have undoubtedly helped attendance, which jumped from about 75 campers a year ago. Cal Poly Pomona Head Coach Paul Thomas, the NCAA Division II Coach of the Year, was also quick to give credit to assistant coaches Heather Jacobsen and Tasha Burnett for promoting the camp.

“I think the main reason we have such a good turnout is because of Heather and Tasha,” Thomas said. “They should be commended for their positive efforts in bringing campers to Cal Poly Pomona. We've never had anyone who has gone out and promoted the camp like this before.”

The Broncos' two straight national championships and incredible 104-16 record over the past four seasons has also helped attract attention to the camp, which stresses fundamentals, shooting form, footwork and positioning.

“That's a by-product of being successful,” Thomas said. “Success reaches all corners of the world. People want to be associated with success.”

The two Japanese players, Tomoko Nakada and Mari Watanabe, are taking their first trip to the United States and came to this country specifically for the Cal Poly Pomona camp. Hirosha Hamaguchi, a graduate of Chapman University who lives in Japan, runs a sports agency that helps arrange trips to United States sports camps for Japanese athletes. When the mothers of Nakada and Watanabe inquired about a girls basketball camp for their daughters, Hamaguchi directed them to Cal Poly Pomona.

“I heard so many good things about the Bronco women's basketball program,” Hamaguchi said. “They've won two straight championships and this seemed like the perfect size camp for them to go. It's real organized and they get good attention from the coaches.”

The players, who speak just a little English, have enjoyed their first U.S. basketball experience. They saw pictures of Cal Poly Pomona that were posted on Hamaguchi's agency's Web site and were surprised when they arrived here on Monday.

“They didn't think the school was this big,” Hamaguchi said. “The thing that really impressed them on the first day was the size. Japanese schools are so small.”

“It's fun,” Watanabe and Nakada agreed.

Both teenagers have played basketball for four years and said, through an interpreter, that they were slowly getting used to the more physical brand of basketball played in the United States. They also said it's been an adjustment having other players speaking to them in a language they do not yet understand. But they were all smiles as they were shown some modern dance steps by other campers and they were quick to pick up the tips given by the Bronco instructors.