Browne lands deal with WJBL’s Koalas

by Ed Odeven

Ree Browne, a former California State University-Dominguez Hills center, has signed a contract to play for the Mitsubishi Koalas of the WJBL, The Japan Times has learned.

The 23-year-old Browne was born in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. She has extended family in Nagoya.

Now she is thrilled to start playing professionally in Japan.

“I am excited,” said Browne in a statement released by her alma mater. “I am happy that even though my college career came to an end last year, I get a chance to start all over again as a professional.”

The 183-cm Browne is scheduled to join her new team on Tuesday, when practice commences for the 2008-09 season. She’ll have six months to prepare for the season, which tips off in October.

Browne, who is half-Japanese, admitted she faces a transition period in getting acclimated to this new phase of her life in Japan.

“I think that adjusting to the culture and having to overcome the language barrier between myself and my coaches and teammates will be the biggest obstacle,” Browne said. “And although basketball as a sport is a universal language and the objective of the game itself doesn’t change, the style of play is different over there.”

Browne’s family left Japan when she was 1 year old. Now she is eager to meet the Japanese side of her family and learn more about her mother’s native culture.

“I never really got the opportunity to experience what that side of my heritage was like,” said Browne, who has an older sister and a younger brother.

“And although growing up in Torrance (Calif.) there are a lot of Japanese people and my mom (Shizuko) still holds onto many of the traditions and has passed them along to me and my siblings, it’s not the same as being fully submersed in it.”

Longtime Toros coach Van Girard said he’s pleased Browne has earned the opportunity to play professionally overseas.

“I think that it’s a tremendous opportunity for her,” he said. “It’s a testament to how hard she has worked to develop her game. I’m very proud of her and really excited, and I think that the international style of the game is more of a finesse game, and that should play to her strength of being able to run the floor and shoot the ball.”

The Toros play in the NCAA Division II’s California Collegiate Athletic Association.

Before attending CSUDH, Browne went to South Torrance High School, where she earned All-Ocean League accolades in 2002 and led the Spartans to the Ocean League championship in ’01.

Another ex-CSUDH basketball player, Rizing Fukuoka center Trevon Bryant, is earning a paycheck in the bj-league. Bryant, who began the season playing for the Tokyo Apache, also played his final collegiate game in 2007.

“I have talked to Trevon since he has been playing over there,” Browne revealed, “and he told me just to focus on working hard every day, and not to let anyone tell me I can’t do anything . . . just remember why you are there and that they brought you there for a reason.”