Having been exposed to many cultures, junior shooting guard Joanne Tsai likes to try new activities, a prevalent one being basketball.
Tsai was born in Taiwan but moved to China when she was 7 years old. She attended an international school there until coming to Country Day in ninth grade.
Tsai’s love of basketball began four years ago in China.
“I love to try new things, so I thought that basketball was a good opportunity to start something new,” Tsai said. “My school was small, and they needed players, so my friends and I decided to join.”
Tsai continued to pursue basketball at Country Day due to a noticeable improvement in her skills.
“Once I started playing, I realized that I was improving, which was my motivation to keep playing,” Tsai said. “I came here and saw that there was a basketball team, and it was the perfect chance to continue doing something I was familiar with.”
She said being on the basketball team taught her how to manage her time more efficiently.
“We have a practice or a game every day,” Tsai said. “I learned how to finish all my work and (go to) sleep at a reasonable time.”
Coach Latonia Pitts praised Tsai’s adaptability.
“(Tsai) is very coachable because she can step up to any role whenever we are down a player in a certain position,” Pitts said. “During the game, she will take every suggestion and try to implement it as fast as possible. It’s good that she understands the game so well.”
Tsai said Pitts is the best coach and mentor she has ever had.
“Even though she sounds strict on the court, she’s actually a really nice and funny person,” Tsai said. “I know she will always be there for me. If anything’s stressing me out, I can go to her, and she helps me out. Last year, I was having problems with my host family, and she always offered to drive me home from games.”
Tsai said her basketball IQ has improved significantly since she joined the team, which she plans to stay on for the rest of high school. Her goal is to improve her speed.
“I want to be faster with my reflexes and my feet,” Tsai said.
Tsai works on her basketball skills when she goes back to Taiwan (where her grandparents live) every summer, she said. Outside of Country Day games and practices, Tsai doesn’t play basketball during the school year because she does not have much free time.
Tsai said her role model is Ying-Chun Chen, a Taiwanese professional basketball player.
“He’s really popular because he’s so young (26), but he’s one of the best players,” Tsai said. “Every year in Taiwan, there is a national basketball tournament, and his team always wins. He scores the most points, and it’s obvious that he trains very hard.”
Tsai said that, while Country Day practices are more rigorous than those in China, they remind her of her friends back home.
“The girls on my team in China are as close as our team is here, and we communicate the same way on the court,” Tsai said. “Sometimes I look at pictures from basketball games in China, and I’m reminded of moments here.”
Tsai said her favorite part about basketball is her team.
“We win together and lose together,” Tsai said. “Through basketball, I have gotten closer to so many people who I usually don’t talk with. No matter what happens, we are always there for each other.”
Junior teammate Stephanie Ye said she admires Tsai’s courage.
“She never wants to give up, and she always fights for every game,” Ye said. “Even though she is not very tall (5-foot-3), she’s not afraid to guard people who are much taller and stronger than her.”
Despite playing basketball in high school, Tsai said she considers it a hobby and will not play in college.
“After high school, I want to keep practicing in my free time and want to improve as much as I possibly can,” she said.
—By Sanjana Anand
Originally published in the Feb. 4 edition of the Octagon.