Basketball is a sport in which statistics play a large role in determining a player’s value to their team.
But sometimes the number of points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots a player accrues doesn’t quantify their on-court worth accurately.
That’s certainly the case for Cal State Bakersfield’s Kate Tokuhara. The 5-foot-11 sophomore guard from Lawndale is one of the Roadrunners’ best players even though she rarely posts big stat sheet numbers.
Instead, the former Mission Hills-Alemany High School standout does an exceptional job at all the things that don’t show up on a postgame box score.
Tokuhara sets solid screens, chases down loose balls, and plays outstanding individual and team defense.
Her defense is so good that she’s regularly given the task of matching up against the opposing team’s top offensive threat.
“One of my coaches once told me that defense wins championships, which is true,” Tokuhara said. “I really took pride in my defense after I heard that.”
Tokuhara first began playing basketball competitively in kindergarten. After starting out in an all-Asian league, she made the jump to playing club basketball in third grade. Tokuhara eventually worked her way onto a top-level club team, the Cal Sparks.
She also played high school basketball, making the varsity team as a freshman. During her prep career, Tokuhara focused most of her energy on playing defense.
Tokuhara doesn’t remember if she ever cracked 20 points in a high school game. Her career-high at CSUB is 12 points.
“I’m not really a scorer type,” Tokuhara said. My shot is kind of awkward. But I love playing defense. I love locking up people and I love assignments, too, like when a coach tells me I have to guard someone and I have to stop them. I love that.”
Tokuhara’s penchant for playing stellar defense led her to receive basketball scholarship offers from several colleges.
Tokuhara chose to come to Bakersfield because one of her good friends, Dalis Jones, had already committed to play for the ’Runners and she really liked the CSUB coaching staff.
Bakersfield’s relatively close proximity to her hometown has allowed Tokuhara’s family to attend most of her games. Her dad has only missed one home game in her two years of playing for the ’Runners.
Tokuhara has given her family plenty of reason to want to make the drive over the mountains to see her play.
She started 27 of 29 games last year as a freshman, averaging 4.1 points for a CSUB team that finished with a 15-14 record.
“I think I had a good freshman year,” Tokuhara said. “I could have been more of an offensive threat, but defensively, I know I got the job done.”
This season, she’s been in the ’Runners’ starting lineup most of the time. Her scoring average has dropped slightly, but she remains a valuable contributor because of her defense and the intangibles she brings to the court. Tokuhara’s main focus this season is to continue to get better and help CSUB win the WAC championship.
“Teamwise, I think we’re clicking more as team this year compared to last year,” Tokuhara said. “We had a lot of individual-ball last year and we would lose games because of that. … This year, I think we can win the WAC. I know we’re the best team in this conference. We just have to stay composed and work together to get wins all the time.”