Most sports teams at Sam Houston State are packed with players born and raised in Texas.
Of course, a few teams have to travel a little outside the state to comprise a team.
Head coach Brad Hagan has had to travel across the globe from Downey, Ca. to Rochester, NY, to the Philippines to Canada to compose his Bearkat bowling team.
The team has a total of eight members, with two of them being from other countries. Those two bowlers are sophomore Janine Kuwahara and junior Carrie Hopkinson.
Kuwahara is from Davao City, Mindanao, which is located in the Philippines. She started bowling at the age of fourteen because it was the only way she could spend time with her family.
“The more I bowled, the better I got, and the more my love for the sport grew,” Kuwahara said. “I got good so I decided to try out for the Philippines National Team.”
In 2012, the Philippines National Team offered Kuwahara a roster spot and her bowling career began. She competed in five national tournaments that year with one of the tournaments was the World Youth Championship in Thailand. This is where Kuwahara caught the eye of SHSU’s head bowling coach Brad Hagan, who just so happened to be the coach of the Puerto Rico team at that time.
“Hagan emailed me shortly after the tournament asking if I were interested in going to SHSU and bowl for the school’s women’s bowling team,” Kuhawara said.”I said ‘yes.’ Having the chance to bowl and get a great education at the same time was an opportunity that I wasn’t going to pass.”
Hopkinson’s path to Huntsville was similar. She lived in Drumbo, Ontario and started bowling when she was just five years old. At the age of 12, Hopkinson bowled in her first tournament for Canada’s national team.
“I bowled for Canada’s national team from 2010 through 2012,” Hopkinson said. “I eventually met Coach Hagen at the 2011 Pabcon International Tournament in the Dominican Republic.”
Growing up, Hopkinson never planned on attending a university, but when one of her former coaches passed away, she quickly changed her mind.
“I wanted to continue bowling competitively, hopefully improve my game and get a degree,” she said. “I started to search for universities where I could bowl as well as partake in a major of interest. It was somewhat difficult to find a school that had a landscape/horticulture program as well as a bowling program.”
Hopkinson stumbled across Florida A&M and started attending in 2011, but when she arrived they told her that the program would be phasing out in two years, meaning she would not have time to graduate with that degree. Her other option was ornamental horticulture, but that program was dormant.
“I stayed in hopes that the program would re-open,” Hopkinson said. “I had already moved what felt like half way across the world. I didn’t want to go all the way back. I started doing more research on new schools. SHSU met all my interests, so when I finally got my release I got in contact with Coach Hagen to start my transfer process. It’s unfortunate what happened, but one door closed and another one opened.”
As imagined, recruiting plays a major role of how a sports program competes. Out of the eight bowlers on the SHSU women’s team, not one of them is from Texas. The NCAA Women’s Bowling allows for a total of five scholarships to be offered and they may be broken up accordingly based on availability and coach’s discretion.
“I do 99 percent of the recruiting and I look for those individuals who best fit our program,” Coach Hagen said. “It’s always nice to have options. However, at the end of the day, the individuals I recruit are those who I feel fit into our system the most both academically and athletically.”
The defending NCAA Division I national champions will take action next in the Fairleigh Dickinson Jersey Jamboree in Hackensack, New Jersey. The tournament will last from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2.