By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at a college basketball player taking his team on a Cinderella run to the Final Four, a baseball manager speaking out against anti-Asian hate, and a former UW Husky football player supporting the AAPI community.
Johnny Juzang leads UCLA to Final Four
The UCLA Bruins were a longshot to make it to the Final Four as they were one of the last of the 68 teams to make the field for the men’s NCAA Tournament. They were in the ‘First Four’ to play to see who would get into the tournament bracket. Despite having to play an extra game during the tournament, the Bruins became just the second team to make it from the ‘First Four’ to the ‘Final Four.’ The Bruins’ run to the Final Four was due in part to the great play of Johnny Juzang.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Juzang’s mother is Vietnamese and his father is Creole. After his freshman year in high school in Southern California, he was projected to be an NBA first round draft pick. His older brother, Christian, played college basketball at Harvard and then went on to play in the Vietnamese Basketball League.
A much heralded college recruit, the 6-foot-7 Juzang played his freshman year at the University of Kentucky. But after his first year, he decided to transfer to move closer to home at UCLA.
Juzang made an impact with the Bruins this season becoming the team’s leading scorer. He made the second team All-Pac 12 as a sophomore with UCLA. Juzang became just the third UCLA Bruin, behind Reggie Miller and Lew Alcindor (known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), to score over 20 points in their first two NCAA tournament games. He scored 28 points in the Bruins’ win over Michigan 51-49 to make it to the Final Four. His success in the tournament will likely lead to a potential spot as one of the top college players picked in the NBA draft.
Dave Roberts’ plea for support
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is coming off of a year in which the team won the World Series. Despite the short season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Roberts guided the Dodgers to their first world title in over 20 years. Moreover, he is the first non-white manager for the Dodger franchise. He’s also just the second Asian American manager behind former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. Roberts, who was born in Japan, has a mother who is Japanese and a Black father.
In support of the Asian community, Roberts sent out an organization-wide email condemning hate against the AAPI community.
“I just think that there’s a lot of things going on, in and outside of our country towards Asians with racist bullying acts,” said Roberts.
A portion of the email read, “Over the past year, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of hate crimes against Asian Americans and the Pacific Islander community. In recent months, those attacks have intensified and have targeted the elderly in California and New York—such bullying is cowardice.”
Roberts was prompted to voice his opinion after he read a Facebook post from Jeremy Lin in which he expressed concern over backlash due to Asians being blamed for COVID-19. Lin also shared his own recent experience when he was called “Coronavirus” on the basketball court by another player during a game. Roberts worked with the Dodgers’ traveling secretary, Scott Akasaki, on the statement.
Major League Baseball posted its own statement in support of the Asian community and expressing a stop to Asian hate.
Roberts’ statement came a week before the killings of eight people, including six Asian women at day spas in Atlanta.
Taylor Rapp offers NFT to help AAPI groups
Los Angeles Rams safety and former University of Washington football player Taylor Rapp is doing his part to support the Asian Pacific Islander community. Rapp, who is part Chinese, is auctioning off several non-fungible token (NFT) depictions of himself. Entitled “Year of the Ox,” Rapp worked with artists to come up with renderings he offered through four days with the public able to bid on them.
NFTs are unique digital files that are
stored on a blockchain network similar to popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. They are self-authenticating and protect against fraud. It is the latest thing in the collectibles market.
There are several different NFT portraits of Rapp, which include him in his Rams uniform and proudly showing a tattoo that is a symbol of his Chinese heritage.
Rapp felt the need to support the Asian community as he noted to the Los Angeles Times that his maternal grandparents live in Seattle’s Chinatown. The rash of attacks on elderly Asian people have him concerned for the safety of his grandparents.
In his third year with the Los Angeles Rams, Rapp battled injuries but should be back on the playing field next season. It’s Rapp’s hope that this fundraiser can bring awareness for the need to abolish anti-Asian hate.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.