PORT ANGELES — They come from metropolises of 13 million people and from as far as 8,000 miles away to play sports in Port Angeles.
And they really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, having the adventure of their lives.
Peninsula College teams this year have three student-athletes from Australia, Japan and Belgium. It’s not a new thing. In years past, the college has had other athletes from Japan and Brazil.
What bring kids from thousands of miles away to attend a small junior college? The opportunity to play is a big factor. The chance to do something in a new land is another.
Because of recruiting rules, Peninsula College can’t recruit internationally. Students from other countries have to take the initiative to contact Peninsula themselves and express a desire to come here. Peninsula gets these phone calls through word of mouth in basketball and soccer circles about the reputation of the school’s sports programs.
Not only are Trent Warren, Sephora Yayouss and Akari Hoshino welcomed onto their Peninsula teams, they’re all three huge contributors.
Hoshino was the goalie for the Northwest Athletic Conference champion women’s soccer team. Thanks in large part to Hoshino’s work in front of the net, the Pirate women gave up just six goals in 21 games this season and had 17 shutouts.
Warren, a rugged 6-6 guard, is averaging 9.1 points a game and has had a couple of great games from beyond the 3-point arc. Yayouss started the season off slowly, but has come on strong in her past few games with great all-around stats. In the past couple of weeks, she had nine points, six assists and 12 rebounds against Columbia Basin; 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds against Lane and 13 points, seven assists and 10 rebounds against Columbia Basin again.
What brought Warren, from Melbourne, to Peninsula? It’s as simple as, “I’ve always wanted to come over to America to play college basketball,” he said.
One thing that Warren and Yayouss have in common is they both come from basketball crazy countries. Australia is well-known for supplying players into the NCAA, especially WCC powerhouse Saint Mary’s College. Yayouss said that likewise, Belgium is a hotbed of basketball.
“I was really impressed with the Peninsula program. There’s a pretty high level of basketball in Brussels,” she said.
Hoshino, from Tokyo, came to Peninsula to play soccer and learn English. Peninsula women’s coach Kanyon Anderson said that Hoshino was recruited by some colleges to play soccer, but that they couldn’t take her because she doesn’t know English. So, she was recommended to Peninsula, which has anintensive English language program.
“She was essentially placed here by another coach who encouraged her to contact me,” Anderson said.
“My English is terrible,” Hoshino joked. “But, my roommates are helping me.”
Yayouss speaks Dutch and French and already knew English from schooling in Belgium. She said English is similar enough to Dutch that it was not a big adjustment for her.
Yayouss’ roommate is her teammate Alicia Dugan, who has helped her adjust to the U.S. and helped her with her English.
At worst, Warren maybe has to learn different American slang, but the language adjustment is not huge for him.
All three of the international athletes come from huge metropolitan cities. Melbourne has 4 million people, Brussels 1.1 million and Tokyo 13 million.
Yayouss said the smallness of Port Angeles compared to Brussels was definitely an adjustment.
“There’s not as many options here of things to do, which just gives me more time to work on my game,” she said. “In Belgium, there’s always something to do. Here I don’t have a lot to do but basketball, which is a good thing.”
Warren said one adjustment is switching from FIBA international rules to American rules. His eyes lit up when he saw the American 3-point line. “It’s a lot closer,” he said. (FIBA’s line is 6.75 meters — 22.1 feet — versus 20.75 in college basketball).
The students said their roommates and classmates have been great at Peninsula. “They really helped me settle in and made it a lot easier,” Warren said.
The weather and the recent cold snap was an adjustment for Warren. Warren said Melbourne can have four seasons in a day.
“But it’s never been this cold,” he said.
Sephora said almost everything about America is different from Belgium, particularly the food and diet. She said Americans are great, but that there is a real competitiveness in the U.S. that goes beyond sports.
The athletes haven’t experienced homesickness yet. Warren said he misses his family, but Yayouss has some family in America, so she isn’t completely alone here. In general, people at Peninsula have made them feel welcome.