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. Masashi Joho of the reigning champion Osaka Evessa is the subject of this week’s profile.
OSAKA EVESSA PHOTO
Position: Guard; Age: 24
Ht: 183 cm;
Wt: 76 kg
Q: How do you rate the team’s season so far?
Joho: We started out shaky earlier, but we gradually tightened our defense and have finally gained about the same strength as last year.
How about your individual play?
I hurt my hamstring one week before Opening Day and had little playing time in the beginning. But now it’s completely healed so I’m fine.
When did you start playing basketball?
When I was a sixth-grader in elementary school after transferring to another school following the summer break.
I had been playing soccer before, but you know, in Hokkaido you can’t play soccer after the fall (because it snows) and one of my classmates asked me to join the basketball team.
Who is your favorite NBA player?
Steve Nash (of the Phoenix Suns), since I’m playing point guard, the same position as his (Joho also plays at shooting guard sometimes). His abilities, such as passing, make me admire for him.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a coach, teammate or opponent?
Um . . . I can’t recall anything. Probably nothing. But I do remember that I was often told to play defense harder by the coach when I entered university in Osaka.
How enjoyable is it to be a part of the bj-league during its infancy?
Basketball had not been a sport that drew an audience (before the bj-league). But now we would like to catch up with other pro sports like baseball and soccer. And also I’m hoping our salaries get higher (laughs).
What can the bj-league do to become more popular across the nation?
Of course, our skills have to improve, though I believe once you come to the arena, you’ll get addicted (to the game). But we need to advertise the league more for sure.
In your own words, what characteristics define your style of play?
My trait is shooting ability. Although I’m a point guard now, I can score both from outside and inside. But right now my 3-point shooting percentage is a bit below 40 percent, so I want to keep it above 40.
What has been your biggest thrill, your most unforgettable moment, on the basketball court?
I started basketball in September in my sixth-grade year, and then in the following March I was playing in the national championship and we finished runnerup. Without the experience, I wouldn’t have continued basketball.
What hobbies do you enjoy when you are not playing basketball?
Because I used to play soccer, I still like to watch it, including the foreign leagues, once in a while.
Who is the most underrated player on your team?
I would say, (Haruyuki) Ishibashi, our captain. He is very stoic and is the guy who leaves the gymnasium last.
We always train together, such as in our shooting practice, though he shoots even after I’m done. He does a lot of weights also. I have so much respect for him and what he does.
Who is the exciting player in the bj-league to watch?
No doubt, (Evessa teammate) Lynn Washington. He is good at making shots from outside and virtually nobody can stop him when he cuts in the lane.