Kai Toews

October 25, 2019

Kai Toews’s hoop dreams began when he was a fourth grader playing basketball with friends at recess.

“It felt like I was a natural at it,” said Toews, who played soccer before gravitating to basketball. “Well, as natural as you can get for a fourth grader.”

Toews learned the fundamentals of the game with the help of his father Burke “BT” Toews, a former pro who played for teams in Canada and Europe. “We worked together every day in the gym and that made my passion for basketball grow,” he said.

A native of Tokyo, Japan, Toews came to the U.S. at the age of 16 to attend high school in Massachusetts with the goal of playing Division I basketball. He made a deal with his parents that he would return home if he didn’t make a Division I team. Returning wasn’t necessary, however. While still an assistant coach at UNC Chapel Hill, UNCW men’s basketball head coach C.B. McGrath saw Toews play. Years later, as UNCW’s men’s basketball head coach, McGrath offered Toews a scholarship. Toews made his mark in the CAA Conference his freshman year as a Seahawk.

Toews was named a finalist for the 2019 Kyle Macy Award presented by CollegeInsider.com to the nation's top freshman basketball player. He also ranked second among all NCAA Division I players with 7.7 assists per game and collected Freshman All-America honors.

It has truly been a blessing,” said the sophomore guard. “I believe the work that I put in brought me to this point, and being around the coaches and my teammates put me in a position where I am comfortable and I can be successful.”

Toews had the opportunity of a lifetime this past summer when he worked out with the Japan National Team. He also played with the team in a tournament in Taiwan.

“One thing I learned from the professional players is basketball is something we can use as a tool to expand our life experiences,” said Toews. “Basketball has taken me all over the world.” That global approach supports his academic interest in international business and trade.

“I am really interested in the way the world works as far as how products and money move around,” he said. “The fact that I can speak English and Japanese can be a positive in the future for me.”

No matter where he goes next, UNCW will always be special to this Seahawk.

“Wilmington just felt like home from day one. The community has accepted me and supported me – not just students, but also faculty and staff. It’s a really important place to me, and I think that is never going to change.”

-- Venita Jenkins