Basketball alum professionally plays in Japan

Story by Lexis Shull

Chehales Tapscott is living proof that even community college athletes can make it big. In fact, Tapscott played basketball right here, at Clackamas Community College, before going on to play for Portland State. But that’s not where it ended for the competitive player. On November 1, 2013, Tapscott was selected in the fourth round (61st overall) of the 2013 Development League Draft by the Maine Red Claws. Since then, he’s played on five different professional teams in Japan for Bambitious Nara, Oita Heat Devils, Kagawa Five Arrows, Ehime Orange Vikings, Kumamoto Volters and back again to the Ehime Orange Vikings. He is playing for his second year with Ehime this season.

Tapscott started playing for CCC in 2008 straight from Century High School with two consecutive conference championships. Tapscott started playing organized basketball when he was a freshman in high school, but growing up he would shoot around in his neighbourhood on a less than adequate hoop.

Tapscott lead Clackamas in back-to-back championships in his time at CCC. He was named the NWAACC Tournament MVP both years and his team was 54-8 over two seasons. His sophomore season, he averaged 25.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 blocked shots and 1.5 steals per game, shooting 54% from the field and 68% at the line and was ranked second in scoring and first in rebounding for NWAACC.

Tapscott said through a series of texts, “I learned from the great Coach ‘Wegs’ how to win, how to be a good teammate and those things have translated well with my career even at this stage.”

Tapscott traded in the red and blue of Clackamas for the green and white of Portland State University, but continued to dominate the competition in the Big Sky Conference, leading the league in rebounding (9.3,) blocked shots (43) and double-doubles (13.)

According to Tapscott, going from community college to the DI level of PSU was a jump. “The level was harder, of course. At Clackamas we would play teams that had Division II and Division III type guys, but at Portland State everyone we played was obviously Division I so it was definitely a little bit of an adjustment. But overall I think Wegs and Clackamas did a good job of preparing me,” he said.

In 2012, Tapscott graduated with a bachelor’s degree before getting drafted the following year.

“I got drafted into the NBA G League, and basically I just entered my name and relied on my agent to promote me as best as possible. A few scouts were interested in me because of my collegiate success,” said Tapscott.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Tapscott moved to Japan to play for his first NBA B League team, the Bambitious Nara.

“Japan is interesting. My first two years was a major culture shock for me in every aspect, living and playing. But now I’m used to the culture, so it’s like I’m home, in a way. But everything out here is small; housing, food, and people,” he said.

Tapscott played one year for Nara before moving year by year to Oita, Kagawa, Ehime, Kumamoto, and as of 2019, Ehime once again.

There are a lot of interesting things about Japan, according to Tapscott. “The most unique thing to me is the food. They eat everything from horses to snails. All the places I’ve lived and other cities here have their own famous food that they are known for. My first team, Nara, is in the Kansai area and the food is ‘takoyaki’, which is fried octopus. My second team is Ehime, which their food is oranges. My third team, Kagawa, are known for udon noodles. Kumamoto, my fourth team is known for ‘basashii’, which is horse meat.”

Tapscott even had some advice for people interested in visiting Japan.

“I highly recommend people to come here to eat and not only that but to experience the humble ancient culture they have here. They treat their elders here with the utmost respect. They are really into anime, even grown people watch anime or look at the comic books. Those are more popular than magazines. When waiting at the doctor’s office there are only comic books. Honestly, it’s just hard to explain how it is here. You’d have to come and see for yourself,” he said.

Tapscott recently surpassed 6,000 points in his professional career while playing in Japan.

“What it means to me is that I’ve had great individual success with the help of my teammates and that I’ve been able to consistently play at a high level. What many people don’t realize is injuries are a large part of sports so I’m very grateful to be and stay healthy enough for me to accomplish this in a relatively short amount of time,” he said.

In the 2017-2018 season playing for Ehime, Tapscott averaged 9.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.6 blocked shots, 1.1 steals per game, lead the league with 22.1 points per game, and shot 49% from the field and 79% at the line.

The ultimate dream for any serious basketball player is to make it to the NBA level like Tapscott did, but anyone playing a sport or doing another activity seriously can take something away from the lessons Tapscott learned on his own journey to success.

When it comes to chasing your dreams, Tapscott said, “My advice is to never take an opportunity for granted. Whether it’s a kid who makes a varsity team, gets a scholarship or gets a pro contract, never take it for granted. It can easily be taken away from you. Also work hard. Work hard in the classroom, because that will open up opportunities for both everyone on and off the court. Work hard at your craft, be the best version of yourself every day and with good work ethic your dreams will become reality.”