Tag - crossover exposure

Suzuki Takes Over in Wintercup to Win National Title in Japan

Tokyo/Atlanta 2017

Hina Suzuki, sister of standout South Georgia Tech guard, Kanna Suzuki, has one upped her sister in an amazing show of will power and clutch performance.  Hina, a senior at Osaka Toin High School in Osaka, Japan, was the shortest player on either team by 10 cms, but that didn’t stop her.  In Curryesk style, Suzuki poured in 8 three pointers and 27 points down the stretch in a double overtime thriller in Tokyo.  With only 1 turnover the entire game, it was clearly an MVP performance.  Although Suzuki was not honored as one of the top 5 players, to the dismay of her family, supporters and anyone watching the game, she was humble and dismissive when asked about it.  “I really don’t care about that, what is important to me is that my team won.” Hina averaged around 15 points for the national tourney and shut down all premiere guards in her path.

Politics may rule the day in Japan Basketball, but the proof is in the pudding.  While Suzuki may have been overlooked due to her size, even in Japan, it is a common theme that her sister Kanna has encountered more than once.  Kanna made the leap to high school in the US in 2012, which provided an opportunity for Hina to train in Atlanta back in 2013.  Although Hina did not follow in the footsteps by coming to the US to play ball, she clearly stood in the imprint of her older sister, who achieved All-State honors at Brandon Hall High School and went on to become the Freshman of the year in the GCAA (Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association).  Often overlooked at AAU tryouts and even college workouts, Kanna always somehow rose to become a central player on every team.  Hina has done the same in her home country and has achieved the highest honor in high school with her performance.

Part of the irony for the Suzukis is the bitter sweet reality of Kanna’s injury versus Hina’s victory.  Kanna abruptly endured a season ending injury before the season could even get started in a pre-season scrimmage.  To make matters worse, the incident occurred in front of college coaches.  Crossover Exposure had a chance to speak with Kanna regarding her situation and her sister’s triumph, asked about how she felt being incapacitated while cheering her sister on. “I was more nervous watching her game than when I actually play on the court because I know how hard she works and to become the #1 team in Japan is a huge thing to accomplish. But I was believing in her I knew she can bring a win to the team no matter what. I wish I could watch that game at the arena but I was crying in front of the laptop anyways lol.  I was literally praying and sending her energy from half way around the world.  I’m more than happy to see her be a part of becoming the #1 team in the nation.” When asked about whether she and her sister have ever considered playing professionally and what the future outlook holds, Kanna replied “Yeah I think so. Both of us are always the shortest player on the court but if she and I have a chance to play professionally I think we would consider it.”  Before that can happen, Kanna must get healthy and Hina must get through college, where she has been recruited by many of the top schools, but has yet to officially announce her decision.  The road to recovery may be long and arduous, but one thing is for certain, if its a Suzuki, its possible.  Crossover Exposure salutes the Suzuki family and looks forward to their continued successes.

The Long Road with Cierra Johnson

Mobile, AL 2017

One thing is for certain, Cierra Johnson has persevered and overcome many obstacles in her winding road of a basketball career thus far.  One of the most highly recruited guards out of high school in the class of 2016, Cierra was forced to take an unconventional route and attend JUCO at Shelton State after not qualifying for the NCAA and a scholarship offer to the University of Alabama.  Johnson’s list of pre-collegiate accolades includes McDonald’s All-American, USA Today All-Alabama first team, Naismith High School All-America Watch List and Jordan Brand Classic All-American.  She has now added NJCAA All-American (1st team), NJCAA All-Star Weekend MVP, ACCC Player of the Year & First Team honors to this list, while leading her team to an ACCC Championship last season.

We had a chance to catch up with Cierra for an interview about her past, present and future to better understand her story and what drives her to be great.

CRX: Growing up in Mobile, AL, how did you get started playing basketball and how old were you?
CJ: Growing up in Mobile, Al I developed the love for basketball at a very young age. My dad first put a basketball in my hand when I was 4 years old, when I first bounced a ball I was 5 and when I played my first real game, I played on an all boys basketball team.

CRX: Tell us about some of the challenges you had growing up. What was life like for you as a kid and in/through high school?
CJ: Growing up I had very dependable parents. We didn’t have much, we had a lot of struggles but my parents made sure I had everything I needed, not what I wanted. My parents invested a lot into my basketball career growing up. They may not had it all the time but they made a way to pay my fees for trips or fees for the team I was on, or sometimes people would pay for me out of the kindness of their heart because we just didn’t have it. I struggled a lot in high school, mostly with focusing on what was really important. Other than that, high school was good to me basketball was great and the people were amazing.

CRX: Take us back and walk us through your mental state when you found out you had to attend JUCO last year due to not qualifying for NCAA.
CJ: I remember sitting in my mentor’s classroom, Ms. Buchanan, when we were going over my grades discussing how I wasn’t going to qualify. I was hurt but I was more so focusing on what others were going to say. During that time I thought JUCO was going to be bad for me. I was thinking about who was going to pick me up. I didn’t have a school to attend because not qualifying was so sudden. My mental and confidence were so gone I wanted to give up because people had such high hopes for me and I felt like I let them down. But now I look at it as everything happens for a reason. God always has a plan that we all need to follow. JUCO has been the best thing that happened to me academically, mentally,socially, and has made me a better person and player.

CRX: You were selected in the JUCO All- Star Weekend and named MVP of the weekend. How was that experience and what did that mean to you?
CJ: The All- Star weekend was a great experience. I have a hard time being social but that weekend I was introduced to a lot of new people whom I still communicate with now. I am so glad I was invited to that event. When I was named MVP it meant a lot to me because even though I didn’t score a lot my intentions were to make the people around me better and I was glad my hard work didn’t go unnoticed.

CRX: What is your outlook for Shelton State this year and what are your goals as a team and individually?
CJ: Even though we lost a lot of people that were a good aspect to the team we have some key returners and some very talented freshman that can and will help us win it all. I think we all have the same team goal to WIN, to win the conference championship and the National championship. My individual goal is to be JUCO POY and to better myself as the year goes on as a person and a player.

CRX: You have achieved a lot and gained recognition as one of the best in the country. What is your ultimate goal in basketball and life?
CJ: Since I was younger I have always wanted to play Professional basketball and impact lives. My ultimate life goal would be to better my relationship with God and to help everybody know his name.

CRX: If you could speak to High School students in a similar position as you what would you tell them?
CJ: SCHOOL IS IMPORTANT!!!!!! You can not go anywhere without grades because its another athlete with better grades and the same talent as you and coaches will overlook you for them. I would also tell them you have to always work everyday to better yourself, everybody in JUCO have the same goal, to play D1 ball so you have to work and better your craft everyday. Also keep God 1st

CRX: Outside of basketball, what do you enjoy to do?
CJ: SLEEP!!!!!!!!!!  Draw or hang with friends.

CRX: Who are some influential people that have helped you along the way?
CJ: I have a few people that have helped me along the way. 1. My mom and dad for believing in my dreams and investing their time in me. 2. Barbarrah Hatcher and Tamika Hardin and Toya Steile my first coaches when I was little without them I don’t think I would be the player I am today. 3. Tiffany Buchanan for helping me with my school-work, mentoring me, and being a mother figure while in school. 4. My sisters for their undying support. They support me in every decision I make. 5. Jordan LeNoir for being in my corner and helping me make decisions, supporting me, and being their for me while I’m away from home. All of these people have made a major impact in my life.

CRX: Who is Cierra Johnson?
CJ: Cierra Johnson is a girl who grew up in Happy Hill projects in Mobile, Al. She didn’t have much but she used basketball as her ticket to get her and her family out of the situation they are in now and she puts all of her trust in the lord and would do anything to give her family the world.

CRX: Who is your favorite NBA and WNBA player and why?
CJ: My favorite NBA player would be Russell Westbrook because of his drive; he plays every game like it is his last. He is loyal to his team he would give any and everything to his team, he leaves it all on the court. My favorite WNBA player would be Maya Moore, the way she plays is so smooth she is humble, and loves the game. Maya Moore is a leader, her and Russell both gives all the glory to God.

CRX: Alabama won 22 games last year, the most since 1997. How do you see yourself fitting in with Coach Curry’s system and also with the emergence of PG Jordan Lewis?
CJ: I see myself fitting into Coach Curry’s system very well, she has a will to win so do I. I feel I bring a lot of drive and I would be a great fit for the team. Jordan Lewis is a great point guard I feel we will be a good combo in the back court.

              

Shelton State’s first game of the season is on November 3rd at Walters State Community College for the Senators Tip Off Classic @ 5:00pm .  Cierra’s long road of faith continues to transform into a testimony and body of work that will soon make her a household name in the upper echelons of Women’s collegiate and professional basketball for years to come.

Kanna Suzuki chosen to play in NJCAA Women’s All Star Weekend

Atlanta/Niceville, FL
2017

Kanna Suzuki, along with teammates, Houlfat Mahouchiza and Ester Adinike have been chosen to participate in the 9th annual NJCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Weekend.  The event will be held from July 21-24 in Niceville, FL at Northwest Florida State College.  Featuring the top 40 rising sophmores in the country, Suzuki, one of four GCAA players selected, is coming off an impressive Freshman year both individually and as the floor leader for the Lady Jets.  Kanna started in 32 out of 35 games and logged the most minutes on South Georgia Tech and fourth most in the GCAA.  She averaged 9.1 ppg and also lead her team and the GCAA with 4.8 assists (10th in NJCAA) and 36.7% from beyond the arc, while ranking 3rd in assist/turnover ratio.  Suzuki was also named the 2016-17 GCAA Freshman of the Year, helping South Georgia Tech to a testy GCAA Tournament Championship and a second round appearance in the National NJCAA Tournament.

Suzuki noted “I am super excited to receive this honor to join the top players in the country in competition.  It is a good chance to evaluate myself amongst the others and of course a good exposure opportunity.”

Suzuki is one of four returning players from last year’s surprising SGT team of 7 Freshman players.  Asked about her outlook for the upcoming season and her Summer plans, Kanna commented “Well, I came home to Japan to see my family, enjoy home and get some training.  I will return to US and train more with Dorian Lee of Bball 101 before I return to  South Georgia for the All Star Tourney.  I think we have a good core of players returning and a lot of experience.  We lost three top players in Coleman, Corbin and Fluellyn, not to mention James, but I know Coach Frey and Conyers have worked hard to bring in some new talent as well, so I feel confident that we can improve upon last year’s season and compete for our ultimate goal of an NJCAA Championship.”

Lofty goals are nothing new for the anomaly of the 5’2 Suzuki.

Shogo Yasunobu signs with Victory Rock Prep

Kyoto/Bradenton

Shogo Yasunobu has been making his mark at every turn and his story continues as he crosses over to attend Victory Rock Prep post graduate program in Bradenton, Florida.  The program has a long history of success under the helm of founder and head coach, Loren Jackson, former IMG Basketball Director who has coached and developed many top players around the globe, including NBA, top Division 1 and overseas talents.  Yasunobu is a 5’8 PG, originally from Okayama, Japan.

Asked about the opportunity to work with Yasunobu, Jackson touched on the development process in guard development, “I am always pleased to work with international talents and help with the refining process through top training and competition.  Victory Rock Prep is the 2016 Grind Session National Champion and is consistently ranked as one of the top programs in the country.

Shogo made his mark early as a junior high school student, participating in the national tournament and making it to the final 8 teams, being selected as a delegate for the U15 Japan team.  With a recommendation and coming off of success, Shogo joined the basketball powerhouse Rakunan High School, the well known program in Kyoto, Japan.

After graduation, Yasunobu had the opportunity to visit the US with the Shizuoka Gymrats on a national tour.  “We heard about Shogo and were excited to see him in action, as he had a high recommendation,” noted Crossover Exposure CEO, Jerone Dodd.  “We had the chance to travel in North Carolina and West Virginia with Takuya Okada and really connect on a road trip, so it was a lot of fun to get to know Shogo and see how he matched up against some other top talent and even older competition.  He has the edge he needs to be successful and I knew Coach Jackson would be a perfect fit in terms of guard development.”

Yasunobu has taken another step in the direction of his dream of playing professional basketball. Although a small guard, Shogo packs a punch with shifty ball handling and tough finishes.  He says that he always wanted to come to the United States because of its basketball supremacy.  “People are friendly, gentle and funny.  And there are plenty of basketball courts and you can play one-on-one or pick up games anytime.  And finally I would like to teach Japanese children what I learned in the USA.”

One thing is for certain, Mr. Yasunobu and Victory Rock Prep are both looking to continue their successful ways.

Mato Drgon is picked up by University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado has officially committed to overseas standout Mato Drgon, bringing their international player count to four.  Mato, originally from Hamuliakovo, Slovak Republic, is a 6’9 stretch forward who plays inside out.  He is an efficient scorer inside and is also known for his 3 point shooting and his ability to stretch the floor.

Drgon is a two-time Slovakian National Team member with notable international experience.  He drove his team to a third place finish in the 2016 FIBA U18 European Championships, averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds.

Crossover Exposure lead scout, Jerone Dodd Jr, had the unique chance to meet and evaluate Mato this summer in Luxembourg at the LBBA (Luxembourg Basketball Association) Combine, where he competed with players from all over Europe.  “I really like Mato and think he has a tons of upside.  Anytime a big can shoot like he does and still be able to mix it up down low, it brings an asset to any team.  He comes from a good family and we were super excited to hear the good news of him joining UNC.  We anticipate that he will be able to adjust to the speed and physicality of American basketball and thrive in a program like UNC.”

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UNC Bears Link

Ewing Makes Leap to Huntington Prep

Huntington, WV.

Elijah Ewing, cousin of NBA Legend, Patrick Ewing and Overseas Pro Patrick Ewing Jr, has inked a deal to attend Huntington Prep Academy for the 2016-17 and 17-18 seasons.   A sharp shooter from Atlanta, GA, Ewing made a name for himself early, starting varsity as a freshman and achieving All-State honors as a sophomore.  With the expansion of the Huntington Prep program, Ewing finds himself matched up with some of the top talent in the country.  “We definitely believe that Elijah can play on this level and we are excited to help him develop his game.  He is dedicated and has shown a good work ethic,” said Head Coach Arkell Bruce.  Ewing is a 6’3 combo guard who has efficient middle range and three point shooting abilities.