It is not hard to spot Maya McArthur on court. At 5ft 11in she is (jointly) the tallest player in a relatively short Japan team at the FIBA U-16 women’s Asian Championship.
She is also ethnically different. McArthur’s father, Eric, is an American who played professionally in Japan for 16 years, and even represented the country at the 2006 Asian Games.
Her mother is Japanese.
McArthur was born and raised in the U.S., where she plays for her high school team in Dana Point, California.
In May, the 16-year-old took part in the U.S. trials for the FIBA U-16 Americas Championship. She made it to the final 37, but failed to make the cut for the last 18.
Tom Hovasse, coach of the Japanese senior women’s team, then sounded McArthur out.
“After I didn’t make the cut, I didn’t even know that I was eligible to play for Japan,” she said at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here. “Coach Tom told me and invited me to the camp in September and here we are today. I never really thought this would happen. I feel so blessed to be here. It’s really an honour.”
Making friends on the team was never a problem, says McArthur.
“I can speak fluent Japanese and language was not a problem. Some of the slang was a bit iffy for me because I speak Japanese only to my mom. But everyone was really nice. At first, it was a bit hard to get the chemistry going because they were shy and I was shy. But now we are very close.”
Her father has been fully supportive of her decision. “He’s given me a couple of pieces of advice. He says, ‘Do your best against all odds. You’re representing a country.’”
When she returns home to the U.S., McArthur’s goal will be to earn a college basketball scholarship, and hopefully play in an NCAA tournament. A call-up to the Japanese senior women’s team is a dream too.
“That would definitely be amazing,” she says. “Of course, the dream right now is to win the U-16 Asian Championship.”
McArthur was at the heart of the action on Monday afternoon as Japan walloped a hapless Hong Kong.