May 20, 2013

Sonoma gets Zen

Kevin McCarthy

Zen Maki's basketball journey to date has included coming across the ocean and then stints in high school and community college in and around Monterey Bay. Now all his hard work and long distance travel to date has paid off as he will be donning the uniform of the Seawolves.

photo of Zen Maki

Make that the Sonoma State University (SSU) Seawolves of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). The Rohnert Park-based basketball program is losing it's top two scorers and shooters and those particular skills sets nicely mirror with the 6-foot-3 Maki's game.

Here's SSU Associate Head Coach Rich Shayewitz on his latest acquisition: “Zen's a catch and shoot guy who is really tough and skilled. He's a good defender who takes charges and an excellent student. Zen also played some point this past season for Monterey Peninsula College (MPC).”

In 2012-13 at MPC, Maki averaged a team best 14.2 points per game including 40% from three-point range, alongside 58 assists and 27 steals for Coach Blake Spiering.

So why Sonoma State?

“They recruited me most of the season and I love the team. The CCAA is a good league and it's in California so it's close to family.”

That last reference alludes to a fascinating backstory. He, his mother and stepfather came to the United States from Japan in 2007 -- at Zen's request -- when Maki was 14, and the family settled in Santa Cruz. Other family members remained behind.

The reason for the uprooting?

“I wanted to get better at basketball,” Maki explained.

He wants to eventually return to Japan to play professionally and is adamant that the years here have aided the progress of his game so much more than if he had remained in Japan.

Such an uprooting certainly put all those miles accumulated on any family car during typical high school and AAU seasons to shame.

Four successful years at Santa Cruz High ensued for Maki, followed by two at Monterey Peninsula College, putting him where he is today.

So what will SSU fans see from him next basketball season?

“Competitiveness. I hate to lose and I'm a hardworker. Whether I'm on the court or on the bench, I'll be cheering for our team to win.”

Maki finished with these most important words: “My dream is coming true.”