During the Upstate Collegiate Box Lacrosse League (UCBLL) Combine it was evident to see that Koichi Nakamura had valuable lacrosse skills. The Fukuoka, Japan, product is quick, smart, and always around the ball. His energy on the turf is contagious and spreads to the rest of the team. This led me to the question, how did he get introduced to lacrosse? Where did his love of the game come from? Why did he come to America?
Before I get into Koichi’s story, let’s take a brief look at the history of lacrosse in Japan. Lacrosse in Japan originated in 1986 when a few students from Keio University in Tokyo visited the American Embassy. During their visit, a conversation was held leading to the donation of sticks from Johns Hopkins University. In 1987, the Japan Lacrosse Association was formed, focusing on volunteerism, amateurism and international friendship. About a month after the association was formed Johns Hopkins University coach Don Zimmerman held a lacrosse camp for the first time in Japan. From there, lacrosse began to grow gradually year after year in Japan, which leads us to Nakamura.
Nakamura was born in Kitakyushu, a city in Fukuoka, Japan. He grew up playing basketball and softball during elementary and high school. After high school, he enrolled in Nakamura Gakuen University, and as a new student, he wanted to participate in a new sport. When deciding what sport to play, he conducted research on YouTube and found highlight videos of Syracuse University’s Mikey Powell. He was mesmerized by his finesse, creativity and was very interested in the overall game. From that day forward, he knew lacrosse was the sport he wanted to focus on.
The only problem was Nakamura Gakuen University did not have a lacrosse program, so Koichi and his friends started to find others who were interested in lacrosse and started playing recreationally. At the end of his sophomore year, the university had enough interest to finally field a team.
For Nakamura, lacrosse certainly was a challenge, but he found comfort in using his other experiences with softball and basketball to help his transition to lacrosse. The hand/eye coordination needed in softball helped him with shooting, passing, and catching, and basketball helped him with picking and the transition game.
“I like the physical contact, speed, and skill required to play the game. Lacrosse is freedom to me,” said Nakamura.
Following his senior year at Nakamura Gakuen University, Koichi entered the Japanese study abroad program Tobitate, which allowed him to continue his education, play lacrosse, and travel the world.
His first stop was Australia, where he played for the North Adelaide Lacrosse Club of the South Australian Division I Lacrosse League. This experience not only served as an opportunity to improve his skills, but to also teach him to embrace his strengths.
“I learned my speed, quickness, transition game, and faceoffs are my strengths, and I learned to use these strengths to my advantage,” said Nakamura.
After Australia, coach Chuck Weber recruited Koichi to play for the Onondaga Community College Lazers. For Koichi, this was a huge accomplishment as Onondaga Community College has a history of molding successful lacrosse players and winning championships. The Lazers have earned 12 national championships in the past 15 years.
“I chose OCC because I wanted to test my skills and play in an extremely competitive environment as my goal is to play for the Japanese National Lacrosse team and be the first Asian lacrosse player in the NLL,” said Nakamura.
Fast forward to today, and he’s embracing his current opportunity with the Upstate Collegiate Box Lacrosse League.
“For me, my six years of basketball experience has helped me in box lacrosse, especially when it comes to the concept of setting picks, playing off picks, and the transition game. The UCBLL gives me the opportunity to play against some of the best collegiate box lacrosse players in the region,” said Nakamura.
From Japan to Australia to upstate New York, his journey does not end here. The UCBLL is more experience added to his resume as he strives to reach his life-long goal of becoming a professional lacrosse player.
For Nakamura, lacrosse is his passion, and he has dedicated all his time and energy to hone his craft. He is determined to make his dream become a reality, and he won’t stop until he gets there.