By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at the country’s best high school basketball player skipping college, a UCLA women’s collegiate speaking out, and a NASCAR driver suspension.
Green opts for G-League
The top high school basketball player in the United States decided that he is going to the NBA’s G-League instead playing in college. Jalen Green is the first person to take advantage of the NBA’s professional pathway program, which allows individuals the chance to enter the NBA’s developmental league instead of going to college. The NBA requires that any player entering the league spend at least one year removed from high school.
The program could pay elite prospects like Green $500,000-plus and provide a one-year development program outside of the minor league’s traditional structure. Previously, high school basketball players not wanting to go to college have opted to play basketball overseas for a year, and then enter their name into the NBA Draft.
Green, whose mother is Filipino, was a highly-recruited guard from Fresno, California. Green fell in love with basketball at an early age and by the time he was in sixth grade, he was practicing 5 hours a day. The 6-foot-5-inch, 180-pound shooting guard has taken home honors in high school and on the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit. Before he was 15 years old, he received offers to play basketball at all of the top college programs. NBA stars Dwayne Wade and LeBron James have commented with praise at his highlight videos. He trains with NBA players such as Stephen Curry in the summer and even won an informal shooting contest with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks. Even without playing post-high school basketball, he is projected to be the number 1 player drafted in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Green’s mother left her position as a nurse and began doing online medical coding so that the family could move from Fresno to Napa where a basketball academy, Prolific Prep, is located. The school teams up with a local high school for academics, while providing the enrollees of mainly top college basketball recruits.
Basketball skills run in the family—Green’s mother played college basketball at Merced College.
After Green decided to enter the G-League, it was reported that he would command a shoe deal from a company that would top seven figures per yield, in addition to his pay from the professional pathway program. Shoe deals from Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour in the seven figures are scarce nowadays, especially for unproven rookies. The estimated and anticipated shoe deals reflect the belief that Green will succeed in the NBA.
UCLA women’s basketball star takes stand
Natalie Chou, a 6-foot-1, 22-year-old Chinese American offered up her experiences in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chou, a Dallas-native, originally signed on to play with Baylor. But after two years, she transferred to UCLA.
In an ESPN article, she detailed how she was afraid to leave her Dallas-area home due to the stigma of being singled-out because of COVID-19. She believed that she was being looked at and judged because of the portrayal that Chinese Americans somehow brought the coronavirus to America. She even admitted to wearing clothing with UCLA on it so that it would ease fears that she was a basketball player and “not just a Chinese person [that others] need to stay away from. She stated that the slang term “Chinese virus” was “disrespectful and ultimately racist” and created “xenophobia for people who look like me.”
Citing a need to speak up for others and inspire young Asian girls, she decided to come out publicly, which seemed out of the ordinary for Chou. Raised in a Chinese American household, she learned to be reserved and not share her personal problems with others. But, with Black teammates, Chou knows the prejudice they face on a daily basis. She wrote in the ESPN article that “[t]hrough them, I’ve learned how to be strong. How to be resilient. How to be courageous. And most of all, how to really love myself.”
Unfortunately, Chou’s comments came with mixed reviews. Some wrote in their support, while others chastised her for speaking out, noting that the location of the origination of the virus was accurate and that there is no racist intent. In fact, she noted someone she knew joking about the “Hong Kong virus.”
NASCAR suspends Kyle Larson
Last month, Kyle Larson was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR and dropped from his racing team after he was overheard calling someone the n-word during a live stream iRacing event on April 13. Larson, who is half Japanese, expressed remorse and regret for the use of the racist language, although it was clear he did not know that he was being heard by the general public.
The iRacing event is a racing simulation online video game being aired in place of live racing due to the shutdown of events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Larson was a participant in the event and thought he had lost communication with his team. “You can’t hear me? Hey n—-r.”
Sponsors acted swiftly to distance themselves from Larson. He lost deals with McDonald’s, Credit One Bank, and Chevrolet. He then was dropped by his racing team, Chip Ganassi Racing.
“NASCAR has made diversity and inclusion a priority and will not tolerate the type of language used by Kyle Larson,” NASCAR said in a statement.
Larson is completing sensitivity training to be reinstated. In the meantime, he re-emerged at a World of Outlaws race event on May 10 to compete.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.