‘Just a Kid from Osaka,’ Kota Akama, is headed to Ranger College

Ranger, TX – August 8, 2019

If we could cash in life experience for dollars right now, Kota Akama would be a wealthy young man. Hailing from Osaka, Japan, Mr. Akama has quite a story and vision, foregoing all of his high school career in the comforts of his own country, to pursue basketball in the US. The unassuming 5’8 point guard from Honshu was termed ‘the kid from Osaka’ or as one of his t-shirts may say ‘Just a Kid from Osaka.’

Kota started his journey after a couple of trips to the US, visiting Atlanta amongst other cities with the travel squad, Gymrats. Long drawn alliances between the moving forces and former teammates T Okada and Crossover CEO J. Dodd and the proven success of Kanna Suzuki convinced Akama to take his first chance in Atlanta at Brandon Hall School, a boarding school competing in GISA. After a year and uncertainty due to coaching changes and competition levels, Kota along with teammate, Elijah Ewing, jumped ship to the prominent Huntington Prep.

Heading up the newly formed and 2nd team, Akama spent two years in the shadows of big-time recruits and soon to be NBA players, such as Keldon Johnson of the San Antonio Spurs. Life in Huntington was much different than Atlanta, to say the least, but Akama was able to focus on his primary goal, getting better and playing the game he loves. After his Junior year, Akama decided he’d hit his ceiling in Huntington and decided to return to his second home in Atlanta, this time with Furtah Prep. Furtah was able to win its 2nd consecutive state title with Akama providing valuable minutes split between starting and coming off the bench.

After Summer camps and several tryouts, Akama has found the grace of Ranger College and Coach Billy Gillespie, securing a position on the squad for the upcoming 2019-20 season. Ranger College finished the season ranked #5 in the country and has been ranked as high as #2. Ironically, this year will also feature another Japanese national on the squad, the well-known Winter Cup star Keisei Tominaga. When asked what he thought about Tominaga’s presence along with the team having a Japanese trainer, Akama replied “It doesn’t matter who is on the team. My goals are the same to be the best I can be. It will be cool to meet Tominaga though and share the experience.”

“Kota is one of the most likable people I’ve ever met in my life and I know a lot of people,” laughed CEO J. Dodd. “I think he is just coming from a culture that places high value on work ethic and devotion to goals. Kota speaks English well and I’m sure he will have a positive effect on the team’s culture and be an asset overall. I love the fact that he never gives up and he will surprise you with his quickness and vision.”

One thing is for sure, Just a Kid from Osaka has got his work cut out for him in a game he’s not supposed to exceed in according to the stats. When asked if he still believes he can achieve his goals, Akama rebuts “Whether or not I reach my dream in basketball, I will do my best and I can be happy with that. The journey is always most important.”

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.

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

Atlanta/Niceville, FL

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.

SGTC Flattens Georgia Highlands 65-63 in GCAA Championship Thriller

For the second year in a row, the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 Women’s Championship was a show-off between Georgia Highlands and the South Georgia Tech Lady Jets.  Nationally ranked SGTC (28-4|13-1) trailed the Highlands (19-14|12-2) after the first quarter in a back and forth duel.  The Lady Jets dominated the Highlands in both regular season games, but with top scorers La’Deja James and Camille Coleman (ACL injury) gone for the rest of the season, the task of topping last year’s GCAA Champion Chargers was a tough task.

The Highlands led a see-saw game into the 3rd quarter before SGTC unleashed a barrage of timely 3 pointers by Freshmen Kanna Suzuki, Marina Balaguer and Sophmore Shaineequah Fluellyn.  Fluellyn was aggressive on offense constantly creating a shot for herself in the lane and sinking threes from deep.  She led all scorers with 30 points and has carried the Lady Jets as the main scorer since Coleman and James have been out.  All American Desiree Corbin, also recovering from a knee injury, put in quality minutes although she fouled out late in the 4th quarter along with other big Houlfat Mahouchiza, who hit a key jumper in the 4th quarter to ward off a run by Highlands.  Esther Adenike also came up with a big offensive rebound and put back late in the fourth quarter and Fluellyn and Kidd hit big free throws to cement the deal.

After last year’s nail biting loss to the Highlands, Head Coach James Frey was relieved to get over the hump and not repeat the misery of leading the GCAA all year only to miss the NJCAA tourney.  Prior to the game, the GCAA announced several awards for SGTC, with Coleman and Corbin making All Conference 1st Team, Fluellyn making All Conference 2nd Team and Kanna Suzuki bringing in the GCAA Freshman of the Year Award.  Coach Frey was also Co-Coach of the Year in the GCAA.

The Lady Jets now have a week to prepare for their next game on Saturday 3/11 versus Denmark Tech in District J at 2:00pm.

Suzuki holds form as SGTC Continues to Dominate GCAA


South Georgia Tech continues to impress with its clear hold as the number one team in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association, zooming to 18-3 amid conference play in a lopsided 91-39 victory vs. Chattahoochee Tech.  A couple of losses earlier in the season bumped the once top 25 program from the rankings, but from the looks of things, Coach James Frey squad may be back in the top 25 next week.

Strong play from the team’s sophomores, Desiree Corbin, Camille Coleman and Dejia James has led to a experienced and balanced attack all year.  Corbin, an All American last season, continues to dominate as a defensive force, ranking #2 in the GCAA at 10.9RPG and #1 in at 56 total blocks.  She is also chipping in 8.9 PPG.  Sharpshooter Camille Coleman is currently leading the GCAA in 3PT% at a stellar 47.9% and chipping in 10PPG and 4.4RPG.  Repeat GCAA Player of the Week and top scorer La’Deja James is posting an impressive 14.5PPG, 6.1RPG and is #1 in the conference in steals and overall FG%.  She is also shooting a conference leading 82.9% from the charity line.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises thus far has been the play of Freshman PG Kanna Suzuki, from Hamamatsu, Japan.  Kanna has started all but 3 games in her push to lead the team to an NCAA tournament.  Last year’s loss to Georgia Highlands in the conference championship has left a bitter taste in the mouth of Coach Frey and Conyers.  Kanna’s story is interesting in that she didn’t even play her senior season due to injury.  She made a name for herself at Brandon Hall School in the GISA private school circuit as a junior, pushing her team to its first ever GISA state tournament and earning All State honors while averaging 24.5PPG.  Falling off the radar her senior year, Suzuki was discovered by Coach Conyers while playing AAU with the Georgia Red Storm in a last ditch effort to get noticed.  “I got information about Kanna while I was at the Battle of the Boro tourney and I knew that we needed to fill a PG position, so I checked her out.  I was impressed with her ability to stretch the floor, her vision and timing.  Considering that she had just recovered from an ACL injury, it was clear that she would get much better, so we took a chance with her.”

Suzuki has not let down the high expectations and has quickly made a name for herself thus far, leading the GCAA in 3PT made (39) along with total assists (94), while averaging 8.3PPG.  Sharing time with other freshman PG, Trakyra Kidd, has had its growing pains, but the two have been forced to grow up quickly and learn to minimize mistakes.  The Lady Jets look to extend their record to 19-3 next week as they journey to Atlanta to face Atlanta Metropolitan College on January 28.

Camille Coleman

La’Deja James

Desiree Corbin

Photos Courtesy of South Georgia Tech College

Suzuki has Impressive Performance in South GA Tech Opener

The South Georgia Tech Lady Jets started their season with an opening home game thriller, topping Chattahoochie Valley Community College on November 1st.  With only one returning player and two freshman point guards, South GA Tech used timely defensive pressure and key scores in the 4th quarter to overcome a seesaw battle in front of a full crowd.

Down by 5 points with less than 2 minutes remaining, Kanna Suzuki hit a big three pointer to pull South GA Tech to within 2 points.  Kanna was soon fouled thereafter and converted the first free throw before missing the 2nd.  Fortunately for South GA Tech, Ester Adenike, one of the 5 international players on South GA Tech’s roster, was able to slide in for an offensive rebound and the put-back to lift the Lady Jets by 1 point.   The Lady Jets were able to hold on and post a 68-63 win over CVCC.

Starting at Point Guard, Suzuki ended as the high scorer for the Lady Jets, tallying 16 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.  Head Coach James Frey noted in a pre game interview that Kanna has brought a certain calm to the team and provided a good example on and off the court.  The Lady Jets take on IMG in the Lady Jets Tipoff Classic on November 5th and look to keep their winning ways going.


Lady Jets Site

Kanna Suzuki signs with South Georgia Tech

Americus, GA

After an arduous and difficult road, Kanna Suzuki has officially signed with South Georgia Technical College, a D1 JUCO in the GCAA.  The Jets have had notable success over the last several years, with a 27-6 record for the 2015-16 season and milestones of reaching the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in the last 3 years.  Head Coach James Frey noted the excitement in bringing Zoom, as she is known, on board.  Kanna missed her entire senior year with an unfortunate ACL injury, but has returned amid uncertainty and landed a full scholarship with SGT.  She was a GISA All-State player for Brandon Hall School in Dunwoody, GA, where she averaged 24.3ppg and set school records in points, field goals, 3 point field goals and steals in a season.  Suzuki is a shifty PG who can shoot from anywhere inside half court and has excellent vision and IQ.