EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to incorrect information provided to the Standard-Examiner, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Wataru Misaka as a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. The Standard-Examiner regrets the error.
OGDEN — The basketball court at Liberty Park isn’t just getting a new surface. It’s also getting a new name.
On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the newly resurfaced public court in the park at 751 21st St. will officially be christened “Kilowatt Court,” in honor of Ogden native Wataru Misaka. “Wat,” as Misaka was nicknamed, was an Ogden basketball standout who went on to be the first non-white player in the history of what would become the NBA.
The 94-year-old Misaka played basketball at Ogden High School, Weber College and the University of Utah before being drafted by the New York Knicks in 1947. He earned the nickname “Kilowatt” for his speed as a small, quick point guard.
The new court’s official unveiling — featuring a commemorative plaque, signage and the new court design — will take place in a ceremony honoring Misaka at 4 p.m. Aug. 14 at the park. Representatives from the city council, the city administration and the Ogden Diversity Commission will be in attendance, along with Misaka and his family and friends.
Misaka was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 1999, and inducted into the Weber State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. At Ogden High, he led the school to state and regional titles, and at Weber College took the team to back-to-back Intermountain Collegiate Athletic Conference titles.
He then transferred to the University of Utah, where he played on the team that won the 1944 NCAA Championship and the 1947 NIT Championship.
Between those two titles, Misaka was drafted into the Army and served in World War II.
“It’s humbling to consider the environment that young Wat navigated on his journey to greatness,” said Ogden Diversity Commissioner Ami Nordlund in a news release. “He was drafted only one year after government internment camps for Japanese-Americans were closed. The anti-Japanese sentiment was strong, and racism was unprecedented.”
Nordlund said she hopes Kilowatt Court will create a permanent legacy in the community that will champion Misaka’s drive and spirit.
“It is my further hope that as the young people of Ogden read his story, they will be inspired to reach for their dreams,” she said. “If a man from Ogden — the son of two immigrants, grew up on 25th Street when it was Utah’s toughest neighborhood — went on to (obtain) two degrees in engineering, and became the first person of color to play professional basketball, the potential for the young people of our community is limitless.”
On Friday, Brandon Garside, communications manager for the Ogden City Council, said Misaka should be remembered for his incredible story. He hopes this new court will contribute to the memory of “one of our own” — someone who was basically born and raised on 25th Street.
“For what he did, the barriers that he broke, he’s not very well known,” Garside said. “We hope this event, and this court, will stand as a tribute to him being able to withstand what he did.”
Ogden City Council member Bart Blair said in a statement: “We were thrilled when we heard this idea to name a basketball court in Mr. Misaka’s honor, and took action to make it a reality. Mr. Misaka will always be an Ogden legend for the barriers he broke as a basketball player, and we hope the court will always stand as a tribute to him.”
Garside said the newly resurfaced court features a “grippy concrete surface” that’s a bit like sandpaper. Court graphics include the Ogden City logo at midcourt and “Kilowatt Court” along the side.
To the best of his knowledge, Garside said Kilowatt Court is one of the few “named” courts in Ogden.
“I think this is one of the first ones done this way,” he said.