Above: Brian Kim, one of the few Asian Pacific Americans playing Division I basketball. Photos Courtesy of the University of Portland.
U of Portland player shows heart
By Jon Chang | Special to AsianWeek
It has been estimated that the average high school basketball player in America has a 1 in 7,600 chance of making it to the NBA. For Asian Pacific American players, the odds might seem even more daunting, given that there have been very few APAs who have played at the Division I or NBA level. Currently, there are three APA/Asian Pacific Canadians playing Mens Division I basketball. Brian Kim is a rising star amongst them.
Kim is a 6' 4", redshirt-freshman shooting guard with the University of Portland Pilots, averaging 3.3 points per game, shooting 42 percent and 50 percent from the three point line. You might ask, Whats so special about a shooting guard averaging 3.3 points per game?
What is special about this story is not Brians immediate success or statistics. His story is one about heart, tenacity, faith and family support all of which one needs to become successful, whether in basketball or life. It serves as a primer for any player who has faith in himself or herself, yet may be overlooked.
Brian was not initially offered any scholarships to play Division I basketball in America. This fact only motivated him to trust in his ability and pursue his goals. Loren Wohlgemuth, sports information director at U of Portland said, Brian basically recruited himself.
Coach Michael Holton, who played for six years in the NBA, says that Kim has great potential.
Brian is a quiet kid, but very eager to learn and fit in. He wants to be a part of the team, and hes a very good teammate. Academically, hes doing very well, Holton said. As a player, Brians athleticism is his biggest strength. Hes got a good combination of quickness and leaping ability. He has the potential to be a very good scoring guard in our program.
AsianWeek: How did you get started playing basketball?
Brian Kim: I learned from watching my older brother Chris when he was playing back in Korea. My family moved from Seoul, Korea to Vancouver, Canada when I was 11 and I started playing there.
AW: I notice that you are about 6' 4" without shoes, are your parents tall also?
Kim: My parents are not very tall, my dad is about 5' 8" and mom, about 5' 5". I was lucky to get this tall.
AW: Tell us the story of your hoops odyssey? Most players are recruited, but you sort of recruited U of Portland, is that correct?
Kim: Yes. After high school, I had offers to play college basketball at many Canadian universities such as Simon Fraser, University of British Columbia and U of Toronto. But my dream was to play in the U.S. for a Division I school against the best players. Theres better competition in America and if you want to be the best that you can be, you go there to play.
However, the most important factors were my faith in my ability to play at that level and my familys support of that decision. Once I made this decision, my dad and I made a recruiting/highlight tape of my games, which we sent to several American universities. Athleticism is one of my strengths and my vertical is about 40" so the tape consists of me dunking and shooting three-pointers in games, which are two critical skills that recruiters are looking for in guards.
[AW note: Wohlgemuth stated, Coach Holton received Brians tape, which basically showed him jumping out of the gym. Brian was dunking on guys like this
(makes a dunking motion with his elbow cocked).]
I ended up getting scholarship offers from U of Rhode Island, U of Maine, Rice and U of Portland.
AW: Why did you pick U of Portland?
Kim: Well, I talked it over with my family and we decided that I would probably learn the most from Coach Holton and his coaching staff. Coach is a former point guard for UCLA and several professional teams in the NBA. Theres no better basketball background than that, right?
AW: What about the other Canadian players? Do most Canadians have to recruit as opposed to being recruited?
Kim: It depends. I have many friends on the Canadian Junior National team and American schools recruited them because they got more exposure. Others who did not make the National Junior team, pretty much went through the same process that I did.
Steve Nash, also from British Columbia, is a great example of being overlooked by most Division I schools. He did the same thing called schools, coaches and sent tapes. He got only one Division I scholarship offer from Santa Clara.
AW: Yeah, look at him now, NBA All-Star. What position do you play?
Kim: Shooting guard.
AW: Whats your relationship with Coach Holton like?
Kim: Coach considers me very raw as a player. He is very upfront with me and tells me exactly what I need to do in order to improve. Until I came to U of Portland, most of the coaching that I got was from my older brother. I try to go into the coaches offices as much as possible to review tapes with assistant coaches Gordon and Brown. I really like the feedback and knowledge that I gain from them.
AW: Who are your favorite players?
Kim: My favorite players are Michael Jordan, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter because they can pass, shoot outside and take it to the rim. Of course, MJ is number one.
AW: Off the subject of basketball, I heard that your search for Korean restaurants in Portland is legendary?
Kim: There arent a lot of Korean restaurants in Portland. If I could, I would eat Korean or Asian food every meal. Once, I went looking for a Korean restaurant and got lost. It took me four hours, but I finally got there.
AW: Any words of advice to other APA or Asian Canadian youth who want to play basketball at the Division I level?
Kim: Go for it! Believe in yourself and pursue your dreams.
Reach Jon Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org.