Sportlight: Louis Kurihara shoots for the stars

Jesse Gonzalez

ASST. SPORTS EDITOR

On Jan. 29, the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) named Louis Kurihara, fourth-year guard for Men’s Basketball, Athlete of the Week. When graduation comes and he finally hangs his jersey for the Purple and Gold, Kurihara plans to test his skills at the professional level by playing overseas in Japan.

His love for basketball began with an invitation from a friend to join a basketball league. His passion for the game grew as soon as he stepped onto the court. “I loved it since I was five,” said Kurihara. “Something just clicked. I went to my first practice and really liked putting the ball in the hoop.” 

Like any athlete that has a passion for their sport, one must put in time and effort to perfect their craft. Before becoming the offensive player for the Poets, Kurihara struggled with his shooting. After middle school, Kurihara changed positions from a forward in youth sports to running the floor as a guard in high school.  

The transition from middle school to Palisades High School proved to be a big jump for Kurihara. “I realized I needed to play on the outside. Up until then, I could not shoot at all,” Kurihara said. “I started training with a different coach, and she taught me how to shoot regularly.” 

Playing for Palisades High School is where he earned the term “shooter” for his ability to score by shooting the ball on a consistent basis. “I hate being called a straight shooter. The name stuck since high school, and I feel I could do more things on the court,” said Kurihara. “ I knew I could shoot the ball, but I want to be able to do other things. I made it a goal of mine to try and get out of the name.” 

High school athletics are critical for athletes who dream of taking their talents to a collegiate level. Players can showcase their skills to gain attention of a college scout  in hopes of playing for their “dream school.” For those who hope to play at the professional level like Kurihara, collegiate play would be their first stepping stone.

Palisades High School changed Kurihara’s mentality and improved his play. “[High school] made me tough. Coaches were tough on the whole team,” said Kurihara. “I was not the best player. I would definitely get yelled at a lot.” 

During Kurihara’s third year of high school, the assistant coach for Palisades cancelled the team’s spring and summer workouts due to the team’s refusal to run during practice after players began missing due to school activity. Who knew it would be the team’s best season and making playoffs and winning Palisades’ first playoff victory? “I enjoyed [playing] with our guys,” said Kurihara. 

Trying to reach his goal in playing professionally after college, Kurihara first had to be accepted. He made it an effort to reach out and contact other Division III schools about basketball tryouts. “I contacted schools: Whittier, Chapman, Occidental, Santa Cruz,” said Kurihara “I definitely went to them first.” 

After a few appearances to Whittier’s Spring tryouts where he spoke with former head coach Rock Carter, Kurihara was awarded a spot on the team. With his hard work paying off, he was able to obtain a position in the starting lineup his first year. “I did not [think] ‘I was going to play’ my freshman year,” said Kurihara. “[I] thought I was going to come off the bench and work my way up.” 

First time nerves are common for an athlete that is new to a system. They worry about not making a mistake and doing as much as possible to stay on the court. Kurihara admits to not being the best one on the team. “[I am] playing with guys older than me, more built, and faster than me,” said Kurihara. “I was just nervous in all kinds of ways and tried to stay on the court.” 

Being on the same court with players and being able to reflect over the last three years, Kurihara does not seem satisfied over his time playing.  “I am disappointed in myself,” said Kurihara. “If I started all four years, then I should be making noise throughout my Junior and Senior year.” 

Better late than never, as Kurihara began to get attention of the league by gaining the title of Athlete of the Week. Then, on Jan. 27 he shot the game-winning three-pointer against the University of Redlands, also scoring in double digits in the last four games. According to WCPoets.com, “Kurihara averaged 14 points per game, shooting 44 percent from the field including 50 percent from behind the arc, while going 86 percent from the free-throw line.”  

“It shows that people are recognizing what I am doing out there,” said Kurihara. “It motivates me to get it again and keep going towards our big goal like a SCIAC Championship.”

Going into his final season, Kurihara had a few goals written at the beginning of the season. “I wanted to be a little more aggressive-shoot and drive more, trying to stay confident and think I could make every shot,” said Kurihara. 

Kurihara is a quiet person who does not want the spotlight to be shined on only him. “If I play well, people will notice that,” said Kurihara. “Attention will come and it is a secondary effect.” 

As of now, Men’s Basketball is in contention for a playoff spot. Facing off against Chapman University on Feb. 7 with only one win away from fourth place, the Poets hope to end the season battling for a SCIAC championship. With only three games left in the season after playing Chapman, Kurihara plans to attack as he planned in the beginning of the season. “I am going to go out there and leave it all out on the court,” said Kurihara. 

Playing basketball is the main reason Kurihara is enrolled here at Whittier. He is working to get a degree in Kinesiology. “I wanted a college education but, to me, I have a bigger goal after college,” said Kurihara. “I plan on playing in Japan after college. I have had that goal since ninth grade.” 

Kurihara is taking a risk at something that is not guaranteed, unlike his spot on Whittier’s roster. It is the flip side of the coin for him. “Others have set plans: they are going to grad school or they have a job waiting for them,” said Kurihara. “I am just nervous and anxious.” 

Parental support is important with anybody’s dream. Kurihara has the support of both his parents. “They have been doing what they can to support [me],” said Kurihara. “It really helps, and [they] are looking forward to it.” 

With his final season nearing an end, Kurihara will be able to reflect on his accomplishments and look forward to his future. Kurihara plays with open ears and  an open mind, and soon hopes to wear a jersey knowing he is an official pro.