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‘Nice eyes’ Yoshida can read moves in bj-league

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The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in Japan’s bj-league — the nation’s first pro basketball circuit — which is in its second season. Taira Yoshida of the Sendai 89ers is the subject of this week’s profile.

News photoTaira Yoshida

Position: Forward
Age: 25
Hometown: Osaka Prefecture

Q: At what age did you start playing basketball?

Yoshida: When I was a junior high school third-grader.

Who is your favorite NBA player?

Because they are not flashy players but constantly playing well, I like Mike Miller (of the Memphis Grizzlies) and Tayshaun Prince (of the Detroit Pistons).

What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a coach, teammate or opponent?

Head coach (Honoo Hamaguchi) has told me, “You have an ability to read opponents’ moves.” I’ve also been told by a waiter of an izakaya (Japanese-style bar) that I have nice eyes (laughs).

How enjoyable is it to be a part of the bj-league during its infancy?

I felt like in the first season the league wasn’t widely known, but in the second season I’ve been often called my name and it feels we’ve gotten more famous than during the first year.

Meanwhile, (in the bj-league games) there are some rules that I’d never experienced.

What can the bj-league do to become more popular across the nation?

We players need to visit elementary and junior high schools and have basketball clinics there many times. Of course, we’ve got to get involved in local activities, and I think it is important.

What has Sendai coach Hamaguchi done to help you become a better basketball player?

He tells me that I’m better off taking a little time to work on my weak points and overcome those every single day.

Who is your favorite basketball player of all time? Why?

I don’t have anyone in my mind particularly.

In your own words, what characteristics define your style of play?

My running speed is not very fast, but I know how to get things done and that is covering up the fact. I’ve made my shooting motion faster, and it is part of my traits.

What has been your biggest thrill, your most unforgettable moment, on the basketball court?

The Osaka Prefecture representative team won the championship in the National Athletic Meet in 2003, and that has been my biggest thrill. It was my first time to win a basketball title in my life as a player.

What hobbies do you enjoy when you are not playing basketball?

I enjoy ceramic art.

Who is the most exciting player in the bj-league to watch?

John Humphrey (of the Tokyo Apache). I don’t think I need to explain why. It’s too obvious if you watch him.