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New Country, New Game For Exchange Students
By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
Miguel Arellano sets his CD player on the bench below him, and raises his arms in the air, demonstrating how he acts after he blocks a shot in a basketball game.
"Every time I block, I go that's five,' or that's six,' " he said, pointing his fingers toward the Baker High School gym ceiling.
Then, as he reaches for the CD player, Arellano admits some people take his actions the wrong way.
"The girls said I'm cocky."
Arellano, a senior at Burnt River High School in Unity, is one of a quartet of exchange students on the team. Arellano's home country is Venezuela.
The other foreign-born Bulls are Seung Bum Ko, a sophomore from Korea; Florian Schulz, a junior from Germany; and Frederico Consentino, a junior from Brazil.
Kaya Ruud, a senior from Norway, plays on Burnt River's girls team.
Both teams are in Baker City for the District 1A basketball tournament this week, having placed second in the Tri-County League during the regular season.
None of the exchange students has ever played organized basketball. When asked about their favorite sport, all gave the same answer soccer.
"They're all soccer fans," said Brian Bradford, Burnt River boys coach.
A few, such as Arellano, Ko and Schulz, played pick-up basketball games in their home countries, but those were played without rules.
Playing with rules was the hard part about this basketball season, they said.
"The rules some I knew before, but I didn't know any positions," said Consentino, who has competed in soccer, swimming, wrestling and cross country.
"I knew about traveling. I knew the rules sometimes because of the NBA games," said Arellano, who is a starter on the team.
It's apparent he has caught on.
After the Bulls played Prairie City Wednesday, Arellano watched the Burnt River girls game against Powder Valley, eyes intent on the game. Every once in a while he'd whisper, "Oh, that was a foul. That was another one."
Korean student Ko didn't know much about the basketball, either, although he brought experience in tae kwon do and swimming with him to Unity.
The rules catch Ko occasionally, especially the three-second violation (offensive players aren't supposed to stay in the key, the painted rectangle near the basket, for more than three seconds in a row).
"It's hard to remember that one," he said.
Fouls presented a slight problem for Arellano, who had to adjust to the etiquette of organized basketball.
"When I play (basketball) in the street, you go and foul somebody, you scream and shout," he said.
He even had an intentional foul called on him earlier this season when he transferred his soccer moves to a basketball game.
"I was pulling his jersey, just like in soccer," he said. "In soccer, if they kick you, you kick them."
Norwegian exchange student Ruud caught on fast to basketball, even though she'd only played informally in her physical education classes.
"It was mostly the running and ball handling that I found hard," she said. "It's fun, but it's different when you haven't played before."
She also played soccer back home, but has branched out to volleyball and basketball while attending school at Burnt River.
"Now I even understand when I watch an NBA game on TV," Ruud said.
Tonya Snyder, Burnt River's second-year girls basketball coach, doesn't really think twice about coaching exchange students in fact, she said it's quite normal.
"I had a group of three girls last year," she said. "This is just the way it's been since I've been coaching."
Burnt River, like most Class 1A high schools in Eastern Oregon, invites exchange students to help bolster declining enrollments.
Each year Snyder said she starts with the fundamentals of the game to ensure that everyone has the same basic skills including how to hold a basketball.
"It's really a lot of fun. They're out there to learn and absorb everything you tell them," Snyder said.
Which can also help teammates who have known the game for years.
"It makes you stop and look at what you're doing when someone else is learning something for the first time," Snyder said.
"When they get it, and it clicks Kaya's no different from any of the other girls."