The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in the bj-league — Japan’s first professional basketball circuit — which is in its third season. Naoto Nakamura of the Osaka Evessa is the subject of this week’s profile.
Ht: 192 cm;
Wt: 84 kg
Hometown: Okinawa Pref.
College: Nippon Sport Science Univ.
Q: You have been superb in helping your team, which is going for a three-peat this season. How do you rate your play so far?
Nakamura: I was making 3-pointers right after the season opener and felt good entering the new season. The 3-point percentage has gone down a bit lately, but overall I’ve not had any major injuries and feel fine.
You’re second in free-throw percentage (89.6 entering Saturday’s game). Do you want to win the title in the end?
Yes, but I want to win the 3-point title more.
With 2005-06 league MVP Lynn Washington sidelined with an injury, how has the team bonded and persevered?
As Lynn has been out, we weren’t able to grab rebounds. But eventually guys like (Kazuya) Hatano extended their playing time and stepped up. It’s become a period for us to grow up as a team.
You wrote in a graduation collection at junior high that you would become a professional basketball player and the dream has come true. How does that make you feel?
It really feels great to play in front of a lot of audience. I’m enjoying it so much.
Your team has three dependable foreign players — Washington, Jeff Newton and Matt Lottich. What have you learned from them?
Concentration. They can keep their concentration for a long time during a game, and that’s something that is clearly different from Japanese players. Also, they can score both from outside and inside, and I’m always impressed by that.
What areas do you think you have improved in this season?
My free throws were bad last season, though, I’ve become better on it. And I’ve had more opportunities for 2-point shots this year, not only 3-pointers.
What has been your best game so far this season?
Our season opener (in which he scored 17 points including five 3-pointers), in the respect that I was able to start the season in good fashion.
How do you describe the style of basketball of Coach Kensaku Tennichi?
I would say run and gun. We keep running at any rate and that’s our biggest trait.
What does Coach Tennichi emphasize defensively?
Well, he imposes one-on-one on us, demanding we not allow penetration. We always have good practices because we have good players — including the foreigners — and, for example, I can learn how to move my feet from the foreigners.
When you match up with Lottich in practice, who normally wins?
I’m overwhelmed by him most of the time. He’s good at tactics.
What is your role on the team?
Since I’m good at 3-point shots, the team expects me to make them. Defensively, I’m asked to stop the opposition’s point-getters.
Who is the most underrated player in the bj-league?
I don’t really know about other teams’ players, though, within our team I would name (Haruhito) Shishito. He’s got speed and I don’t think he’s receiving the right evaluation.
Who was your idol before becoming a pro?
Reggie Miller. He was making 3-points shots and I always wanted to be like that. Domestically, I didn’t have anyone, because I’m from Okinawa and was able to watch the programs of the U.S. base. I often watched NBA games, and I didn’t watch the Japanese league much.
How are you treated off the court by the other players?
I’m like an older brother for most of them. I often hook up with them by going to dinner.
Who do you go out with most?
I get along with Shishito and (Kazuya) Hatano.
What would you do if you were the league commissioner for one day?
I would like to have games with teams of foreign countries, such as the NBA and Europe.
What has been your biggest thrill, your most unforgettable moment, on the basketball court?
Since I graduated from college, I had never won any championships, so last year’s championship was so special to me. I was so excited.
What do you do in your spare time?
I play with my 3-year-old son. We have a toy basket at home (laughs).