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Five Arrows coach Aoki salutes supporters

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

News photoMotofumi Aoki
TAKAMATSU FIVE ARROWS PHOTO

Aoki, who graduated from Chuo University, played in the JBL’s second division for the Denso team and then coached the club from 1993-96.

The 42-year-old native of Aichi Prefecture later coached the Aichi Industrial Machines (1996-2000) and Hamamatsu University (2001-06) basketball squads.

Q: What is the No. 1 reason for your team’s success this season?

Aoki: From the beginning, the tactic of the team is to show each player’s good points. We don’t have star players, but each player’s good points the team wants to show.

For the players who are good at defense, the players need to do that and the (good) 3-point shooters need to do 3-point shots.

Those players need to show their good points rather than improve their bad points.

How happy have the fans in Takamatsu been about the team’s performance?

I believe that Takamatsu’s boosters are the No. 1 boosters in the bj-league. Everyone tries to cheer with a loud voice and everyone gets excited, so many (times) the boosters give us power to win and because of their cheers we were able to win.

So we are very happy with that. We went to say thank you for them.

What is your favorite NBA team and why?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are my favorite team because the (previous) head coach of the team, Dwane Casey, is my friend.

(Timberwolves Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale fired Casey on Jan. 23 after he posted a 53-69 record as the team’s coach.)

Casey was the coach of the Japanese Enterprises team, and he was coaching a women’s team in Japan.

Dwane Casey was a Seattle SuperSonics assistant coach and he really liked Japan.

Casey’s team gave my team a clinic 10 years ago.

(While living in Japan for five years, Casey also coached with legendary Pete Newell on the Japan national team.)

Have you and Casey stayed friends for a long time?

I believe that Casey is my teacher as a basketball coach, and because I cannot speak English so much I cannot make contact using the phone, but still I believe he’s my friend and also a teacher.

Casey remembers me, I believe.

Who is your favorite NBA player now?

Kobe Bryant, because he can score a lot, 50 points in every game. A player who can score is a very attractive player.

Before the 2006-07 season’s first game what was your goal for the team in its first season?

Because we are a very new team I wanted to make a championship. I believe in the tryout and the draft I chose good players; also the foreign players I chose.

I thought that with the (roster) we’ve got that maybe we can make a championship this year, I believe.

With the playoffs just around the corner, what must the team do now to win a championship? In addition, what improvements must the team make in practice?

(The Five Arrows, who are 24-14, entered the regular season’s final weekend tied with the Niigata Albirex BB for second place in the league standings.)

Our team needs to be a stable team to (win) a championship. Usually our team is sometimes up and sometimes down, so we need to be a stable team.

What makes Rasheed Sparks, the bj-league’s leader in steals, a great defensive player?

He anticipates the opponent’s movement, so he can get a good record in steals. He can anticipate before the opponent moves, so maybe he’s good at (seeing) the bad point of the opponent.