As much as he enjoys seeing his team win or score lots of points, Tokyo Apache head coach Joe Bryant believes in something more important when it comes to the bj-league — making it a league for Japanese players.
Each team has played at least 11 games in the league’s inaugural season, and the stat sheets show the league is dominated by foreign players.
Unlike any other sports leagues in Japan, including professional baseball, the bj-league has no limitations on number of gaijin players on a roster.
And a team can play as many of them as it wants. In other words, a team can put five Americans on the court at the same time in theory.
But Bryant thinks this is not appropriate for the sport to grow in Japan.
“In my vision, and the Tokyo Apache’s vision, it doesn’t make sense,” Bryant told The Japan Times. “It doesn’t make sense for me to play five Americans.
“(So) I refuse to do that because it’s important that Japanese players step up and become accountable.”
The Apache stand fourth in the six-team standings, going 5-7 through Sunday. Some of the teams have occasionally used more than two foreign players, who are more powerful and physically gifted than Japanese hoopsters, and who dominate the paint.
But Bryant’s vision is long-term and he won’t change his principles.
“I think Japanese players have to take more responsibilities because this is their league,” he said. “We’re going to play the Japanese players and watch them grow and help them grow.”
Bryant demands higher professionalism from his Japanese charges so they can give the fans their best.
“When you are professional, you have to be consistent,” he said. “You can’t have 18 points in one game and come back with five in the next.
“You have to be accountable night in and night out. You played great games last week, and you have to do the same in the following week.”
Bryant also said that professional players are required to be physically tough.
He referred to NBA players, who play 82 regular-season games — almost double of the bj-league, in which the teams play 40 games this season.
“They play four games in six days (in the NBA),” said Bryant, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers and Houston Rockets in the NBA. “We play back-to-back (on weekends). One game starts at 6 p.m. and the next day we play at noon.
“Then the guys are a little sore and their fingers are sore. But I say, ‘Hey, the NBA players go through this all the time.’ “
Although Bryant has just a one-year contract with the club — like everyone else in the league — he seemingly wants to come back next season and continue teaching the Japanese players.