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Ryukyu’s Terry reflects on memories of UNC’s 2005 championship squad

by

Staff Writer

Ryukyu Golden Kings forward Reyshawn Terry is part of a special fraternity.

As a native of the Tar Heel State, Terry’s identity has been forged in part by his association with the storied University of North Carolina men’s basketball program, which captured its fourth NCAA title in 2005, and first under Roy Williams (the legendary Dean Smith led the school to three crowns).

Terry was a sophomore on the Tar Heels’ deep, versatile 2004-05 team that beat Illinois 75-70 to win the title on April 4 in St. Louis. He saw limited playing time in the Final Four, but displayed his talents with a dunk against Michigan State in the semifinal round. (He logged two minutes of court time in the final.)

“The biggest thrill to me was winning the national championship in 2005 with the University of North Carolina,” Terry, who turns 33 next month, told The Japan Times, reflecting on his basketball career.

“The process and the experience is something that only the people that were affiliated with that particular team will know what that feeling was like when we were declared national champions.”

Because March Madness is now upon us, Carolina supporters share an expectation that’s an almost annual occurrence: another realistic shot at a title.

The Tar Heels’ oh-so-close runner-up finish last April, when they dropped the championship final on Villanova’s Kris Jenkins’ miracle last-second shot, was one of the most dramatic finishes in big-event sports history.

This week, Terry’s alma mater begins its 2017 title quest as the South No. 1 seed against No. 16 Texas Southern.

And while the tournament bombards the airwaves for the next three weeks, Terry quietly goes about his business of representing UNC — and the illustrious program’s tradition of big-name talents like Michael Jordan, James Worthy, et al — with pride and professionalism halfway around the world.

“That’s always in the back of, I think, every Carolina player’s mind, playing overseas or playing in the NBA is to kind of represent our school the right way, and there’s a lot of history and tradition that follows with that,” Terry said. “So we try to hold up our end of the bargain when we’re representing our school from afar. That definitely is something that we try to uphold.”

Terry, though, doesn’t put pressure on himself to emulate past UNC stars or current NBA players. He does his job his own way.

“I don’t like to be compared to any players,” said Terry, who hails from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “I have my own identity.”

Terry demonstrated that with a stellar all-around outing in the Golden Kings’ 75-66 victory over the struggling Yokohama B-Corsairs on Sunday. He provided 21 points (7-for-10 from the free-throw line, 6-for-9 from the field), 12 rebounds and six assists for the visitors. He was a step ahead of defenders on many plays and recognized what was the right play at the right time. He showed his smarts and his veteran instincts in an important win for the Kings (19-24), who must make up ground on other teams to secure a playoff spot.

Looking at Ryukyu’s challenge ahead of trying to make the playoffs, he had this to say: “They were kind of a powerhouse in the (bj-league), but coming into this (new) league is kind of a transition. We kind of started from scratch all over again and trying to find our way and see where they stand in this league, and I think we are doing a good job of just kind of holding our own, and building on from the beginning to now and even to the future.”

Terry added: “They are definitely emphasizing a playoff run and there’s a lot of winning tradition here and history here, so (we) are just trying to keep pushing and keep striving to continue this great legacy…”

After he helped the Tar Heels win that aforementioned title in his sophomore year, Terry’s role increased dramatically as a junior. He responded to the challenge, averaging 14.3 points and raising his profile on the national scene.

After his senior season, he was chosen with the 44th pick the Orlando Magic in the second round of the ’07 NBA Draft. But Terry began his pro career with the Greek League’s Aris Thessaloniki. Since then, he has found his niche as a key contributor in other leagues spanning the globe, including stops in Italy, Spain, Lebanon, Germany, Puerto Rico, South Korea, among others.

Terry said he’s pleased with the experience he’s had playing for the Kings, as well as the overall direction of Japan basketball buoyed by the merger of the NBL, bj-league and NBDL to form the B. League.

But he’s not thrilled about the minutes’ restrictions that are a direct result of the import quota rules (one foreigner per team for two quarters, two for two quarters).

“If I could change some thing about the B. League, it would be the import rule,” he said.

Since joining the Golden Kings in November, Terry has grown to appreciate the leadership skills and workmanship that define Ryukyu legend Anthony McHenry, who suited up for Georgia Tech in the 2004 Final Four.

“It has been a privilege to play alongside Anthony McHenry. He is the true definition of a pro’s pro,” Terry said.

“He exemplifies the meaning of leadership and expects nothing less than your best as our leader. He has shown what consistency stands for, which is something that I have struggled with in previous years of my career. He adds to the guidelines of leadership that I try to demonstrate everyday.

“It takes a special person to sacrifice everything that they invest into their craft, every single day for the well being of the team. You can’t mention the Ryukyu Kings and not mention Anthony McHenry.”

For Terry, McHenry’s positive impact on the latest chapter of his career is inspiring.

That special UNC championship team also has ties to Japan stretching back many years.

Terry’s team included future Japan pro players Jackie Manuel (defunct Miyazaki Shining Suns of the bj-league; now an assistant coach with Valparaiso University on ex-Osaka Evessa star Matt Lottich’s staff) and Jawad Williams (of the JBL’s Rera Kamuy; a future teammate of LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers). In addition, Tar Heel standouts Marvin Williams (No. 2 pick), Raymond Felton (fifth), Sean May (13th) and Rashad McCants (14th) were among top 2005 NBA Draft picks.

Longtime Ryukyu assistant coach Keith Richardson, a part of the team’s staff for four bj-league championship squads, considers Terry an important acquisition.

“Rey has made a tremendous impact since joining the team,” Richardson, who joined the Golden Kings coaching staff in 2008, told The Japan Times. “Rey is very good at reading offenses and defenses and what he can do to exploit them.

“Obviously his ability to score the ball has been a big asset to the Team especially when we have struggled with that side of the ball.”

What stands out about Terry’s approach to the game?

“Rey’s a competitor and competes hard with everything he does at practice and in the game,” Richardson observed. “He brings a competitive edge that pushes his teammates and makes everyone playing around him a little bit better.”

He went on: “Obviously being from UNC and being a champion at almost every level he’s played sets him apart. Actually being from the UNC Chapel Hill area, I had the opportunity to see him play while he was at UNC and looking back I see the same young competitor in him that I saw then. Coach (Roy) Williams and UNC do a great job of not only having a great competitive basketball program but also in preparing players for the future whether it’s basketball or other endeavors. That’s a carryover of the legacy that coach Dean Smith left on UNC basketball and everyone I have met that played in that program has that competitive edge and are true professionals.”

As the regular season’s stretch run approaches, Richardson recognizes that Terry’s veteran poise and all-around skills are vital in order for the Kings to reach the postseason.

“Rey is a key piece to the Kings making a run to get a playoff spot,” he said. “We are only a few spots back from that and we have some very key games coming up that Rey will play a big factor in us getting in.”

Crowd-funding campaign: The ongoing financial crisis that defines the second-division Kagoshima Rebnise’s season now includes a plea to ask fans and the general public to donate money to help the team.

In a news release this week, the B. League stated that it wants to help stabilize the team’s finances.

Here’s a link to more information on the project: readyfor.jp/projects/rebnise

In an email inquiry, league spokeswoman Kishiko Tsunezawa was asked if the Rebnise would be pressed to use money from potential crowd-funding funds to pay past debts, including salary to former Kagoshima players who left the club without receiving compensation for their work. (In part, the email question was made as a follow-up to this: This newspaper in a recent expose reported that ex-players for months have been attempting to received what they are owed based on their signed contracts with Rebnise management. The report also detailed how team and league staff have not returned phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook messages and certified mail to address the issue.)

In her response, Tsunezawa stated that potential funds would be used for game expenses in March, April and May.

Of the 36 teams in the top two divisions, Kagoshima has the worst record (5-39).

Upcoming games: This week’s action commences with one series opener on Friday: Kawasaki (37-6) vs. Mikawa (33-10), two title contenders. Starting Saturday, here are the rest of the two-game matchups: Hokkaido vs. Niigata, Nagoya vs. Akita, Kyoto vs. Chiba, Sendai vs. Toyama, Shibuya vs. Tokyo, Shiga vs. Tochigi, Osaka vs. Yokohama and Ryukyu vs. San-en.