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Ashby makes big strides on court

by Ed Odeven

The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in the bj-league — Japan’s first professional basketball circuit — which is in its second season. Julius Ashby of the Takamatsu Five Arrows is the subject of this week’s profile.

News photoJulius Ashby
TAKAMATSU FIVE ARROWS PHOTO

Position: Center
Age: 24
Hometown: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Q: At what age did you start playing basketball?

Ashby: Believe it or not, I started playing organized basketball in junior college (Marshalltown Community College in Iowa). I never played in high school, so this is my fifth year.

What got you started in competitive basketball?

When I moved to the U.S. — I am from Trinidad, then I moved to New York — I started playing off and on. I started playing a lot more and then ended up getting a scholarship to a junior college.

Is playing basketball something that came naturally for you?

My first year in junior college I struggled a lot, and then in my second year I started getting a lot better. This has just been a big learning process, and I am still learning.

Why do you feel you have been successful despite only playing for a few years?

I love playing. I think that is why it has become so easy to me.

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

I don’t know (he pauses). . . . Probably when we were playing in the Big 12 tournament and we ended up losing to Oklahoma State. (Ashby attended the University of Colorado). One of Oklahoma State’s coaches came up to me to tell me how impressed he was that I’d gotten (much better) during the Big 12 season.

How would you characterize your experience as a pro player in Japan?

It is my first professional job. It is still basketball. That’s how I look at it.

What would you like to see the league do differently?

Hopefully we can start playing teams from other leagues, so we can see where the bj-league stands.

Who are your favorite NBA players? Why?

One guy whose game I really like is Jermaine O’Neal (of the Indiana Pacers) and Gilbert Arenas (of the Washington Wizards). I’ve got a lot of people. . . I play in the post, that’s why I like Jermaine O’Neal. But as for Gilbert Arenas, I just like that for his size all the things that he can do. I just enjoy watching them play.

When did you move to the United States? And how did your upbringing help you develop as a player?

I moved to the U.S. at 10. I was going back and forth between Trinidad and New York, switching schools. But I played against a lot of pros in college. I played against a lot of pros in some summer leagues (in New York) and stuff like that.

What are your thoughts on your rookie season in Japan, which includes a spot in the first-ever All-Star Game in Okinawa?

I just think I can do a whole lot better. I think I am doing OK. (He’s averaging 17.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.) I am surprised I got selected to this All-Star thing. I was telling the coach how I was lucky.

What are some words that define your style of play?

Athletic, aggressive and smart.

What do you do when you’re not playing basketball?

I am two classes away from getting my sociology degree. I am taking two Internet classes, (two electives): a criminology class and a children’s literature class. I hope to finish that up before I go home.