SportStars Magazine

Turning Heads

Given Their Own Chance To Shine, NorCal’s Asian-American Hoopers Made The Most Of Their First All-Star Event •

Story By CHACE BRSON | Photos By SAMUEL STRINGER

Kobe Ordonio hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game and the NorCal Asian Senior All-Stars bench shot up in excitement while the better-than-average crowd at Cal State University East Bay oohed.

Ordonio had just tied the inaugural NorCal Asian-American All-Star Game at 112-112 with 2:37 left to play against the Asian Undergrad All-Stars. It was part of a spirited comeback by the Seniors, who trailed by at least 10 multiple times during the final period.

Mello Dunbar (Sacred Heart Cathedral-S.F.) of the Senior All-Stars drives to the hoop.

And then James Chun reeled off five points in a 20-second span to give the Undergrads a lead they’d never give up en route to a thrilling 120-115 final on June 22. The exciting finish capped a two-game celebration of Asian-American basketball that exceeded the expectations of Dion Aye and Justin Cardona, the duo behind the NorCalSportsTV streaming service that organized and broadcast the event.

“It was a great turnout,” Aye said. “The parents couldn’t say enough at just how excited they were. A couple were talking about how it felt like their own Super Bowl.”

As for the players, nothing was sweeter than having a chance to prove they belonged in an All-Star setting.

“I think the perception of Asian-American players is that they are all really small, and that they can’t play high-level basketball,” said Chun, a soon-to-be senior at Archbishop Riordan-San Francisco who finished with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists. “I think we disproved that. And I know for a lot of us undergrads, we were able to get some (recruiting) buzz for being a part of the event.”

There’s no question, the players turned some heads during the two games. A Rising Stars All-Star Game was played prior to the Seniors vs. Undergrads contest. Chun said he was contacted by a few NAIA schools after the game, and that he knew of a few others who got calls.

Walter Lum (Lick-Wilmerding-S.F.) of the Rising Stars North All-Stars flies in for a layup.

“I think a lot of times Asian-American players are often put in a box in terms of their skills,” Lincoln-San Francisco boys basketball coach Curtis Chan said. Chan coached the Seniors team. “I think events like this can really open eyes to some of the more athletic players. It also gives guys who are distributors or role players for their high school teams a chance to show their ability to produce as well.”

Ordonio, a graduate of Monterey High who plans to play at Cabrillo College next season, led all scorers in the Seniors/Undergrads game. He scored 34 points and added 10 rebounds. Sacred Heart Cathedral-S.F. grad Mello Dunbar showcased a total floor game with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.

“I enjoyed the experienced,” said Dunbar, who plans to attend Cal State Univ. San Marcos in the fall, but just as a student — at least for his freshman year. “Not too many people are given the opportunity to play in such a game. … The only thing I did’t enjoy so much was not getting the W.”

The Undergrads were led by Pierre Crockrell II, who will be a junior at Prolific Prep-Napa in the fall. The 6-foot point guard posted 28 points and grabbed six rebounds. Walter Lum, a senior for Lick-Wilmerding-S.F. next season, had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.

In the Rising Stars Game, which featured a variety of underclassmen, the North defeated the South 108-82. Inder Sandhu, a 6-3 shooting guard for Ceres, led the North with 26 points (shooting 10 of 13 from the field) and six rebounds. Japjit Gill of James Logan-Union City chipped in 22 points.

“It was an honor,” Sandhu said. “I’ve never been invited to play in any type of game like that before, and it was a great event. I’d love to go back next year.”

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