Four years ago, the Utah Valley women’s basketball team gained a new point guard from nearly 1,100 miles away. Utah Valley’s Asumi Nakayama came all the way from Saitama, Japan to play as a Wolverine.
Despite another offer to stay in Japan to play basketball, Nakayama chose Utah Valley because of the opportunities it held for her. “I could learn English, the basketball is awesome and of course America is great,” she said. “I really appreciated those opportunities and that’s why I decided to come here.”
She started playing basketball 14 years ago when she was in third grade and played all the way through junior high and high school before making her UVU debut in 2006 as a freshman.
Coach Cathy Nixon didn’t waste any time putting her on the floor. She played in all 28 games as a freshman and started 19 of them. As a sophomore, she played in all 28 games starting five and as a junior started all 27 games.
Over the next two seasons she would finish her junior season not only with a team championship behind her, but also being ranked seventh nationally and first among all independent players in assists per game.
It is now her senior season as a Wolverine and she remarks, “I couldn’t say anything more than thank you for everything.”
Despite English being a struggle for Nakayama, there never seemed to be a language barrier between her and her coaches or teammates. “Everyone’s so nice. Even when I couldn’t speak English well or communicate well they always helped me,” she said.
She has also had to conquer the balance between school and basketball during the last four years, because back home in Japan the focus, once in college, is different for students. “In Japan, after we enter college we don’t have to study, we can just focus on basketball. Here we have to do both – academics and basketball – so that balance was hard for me,” said said.
She is set to graduate this semester in communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. As far as post-graduation plans go, she will return to her home country and would like to pursue a career in television sports reporting.
Aside from all the basketball that Nakayama plays, she enjoys golf, movies and hanging out with her teammates.