New Taipei City in Taiwan has a population around 4 million. It’s slightly bigger than Lakin’s 2,200.
Just ask Henry Chou how big the difference is.
“(Taiwan) has everything all the time,” Chou said this week. “They have food, movies.”
Chou spent this year in Lakin as a foreign exchange student, and getting used to the slow pace of rural life was the biggest adjustment, he said. Ironically enough, it was the up tempo pace of Lakin’s boys basketball team that was the biggest adjustment for Chou on the hardwood.
“Lakin’s basketball style is press all the time,” Chou said. “That’s pretty tiring for me.”
It didn’t take him long to adjust, though, as Chou made a crater-sized impact in the Hi Plains League, leading the Broncs’ stellar offense with 20 points per game and 2.5 assists per game. He was the focal point of Lakin’s attack, and helped lead the Broncs to the Class 2A sub-state championship game, before falling to eventual state champion Ness City, 66-58 — a game in which Chou scored a season-high, and lifetime-high, 36 points.
For his ability to adapt, and his season-long effort, Chou is The Telegram’s All-Area boys player of the year.
“He’s a three-sport guy, a straight-A student, and not only was he a great basketball player, but he fits our program,” Lakin head coach Nate Schmitt said. “He’s definitely left a lasting impression on our school and the kids in our program.”
Lakin has had several foreign exchange students enroll at the high school in last few years, Schmitt said, and each one has brought different positive attributes to the school. And before each one arrives, coaches discuss what athletic abilities they might possess, as well.
“We had heard (Chou was) supposed to be decent at basketball,” Schmitt said. “Well, that was a lie. He was outstanding.”
Some of the other Lakin basketball players saw Chou play in pick-up games before practice began and relayed their thoughts to Schmitt, but he had to see it first-hand.
“It wasn’t until the first practice that we looked at each other and though, ‘Oh, we’re going to be a little bit better than we thought,” Schmitt said. “It was really cool to watch him have the success he had.”
In Lakin’s first game, he scored just four points. But Chou scored 31 and 29 in the next two games to officially begin his breakout season.
“After three or four game, I started feeling better,” Chou said, noting he was recovering from a shin injury, as well.
Some of the plays Chou was able to pull off this season will always be remembered by Schmitt, such as one at the end of a game at Wichita County.
With time running out, and Lakin needing a bucket, Chou allowed the inbound pass to roll up the floor without touching it, keeping the clock stopped.
“He let it roll and roll, and the ball is past half-court, and it’s almost at a complete stop, and the defender jumped for it, and Henry picked it up, put on a spin move and pulled up in the lane to hit a jumper,” Schmitt said.
It helped the Broncs eventually win, 72-64, in double overtime.
And then there was the all-over performance in the sub-state final vs. Ness City.
“That was hist best,” Schmitt said. “That was a something I saw in him that was just remarkable.”