The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in the bj-league — Japan’s first professional basketball circuit — which began its fourth season in October. Shigeyuki Kinjo of the Ryukyu Golden Kings is the subject of this week’s profile.
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 24; Ht: 182 cm
Wt: 80 kg
Hometown: Okinawa Prefecture
College: Daito Bunka University
Noteworthy statistics: He’s averaging 13.9 points per game. He leads the league in 3-point shooting percentage (41.8 percent, or 76-for-182) . . . has eight games of 20 or more points . . . scored in double digits in 25 of Ryukyu’s 34 games to date.
After Ryukyu posted a 10-34 record as an expansion team last season, your team has made a great turnaround in 2008-09. So tell me this: How has the Golden Kings’ success this season increased the team’s popularity throughout the Okinawa islands?
Last year, the people showed up but didn’t share the victory with the team. However, this year the people show up at the game to share the happiness with the team because the team won.
I get more cheers and compliments (now). I exchange hi-fives with the fans after the game and people call me (in the crowd) and say that it was a great game, good luck at the next game. So I am happy to share the victory with them.
Before the season began did you believe the Golden Kings (26-8), who are currently the league’s No. 1 team in victories, had a chance to be a very good team this season?
I felt that this team had the opportunity to become a strong team, but I didn’t expect this much.
As a college student, were you planning ahead, dreaming every day, to be a professional basketball player in the future?
I didn’t ever think I was going to be a professional player while in college, because I wanted to help the team to be No. 1 in the conference. That was the important thing while I was in college.
But after graduation, I started thinking about my career and I wanted to go to the next stage. So maybe the turning point was after graduation.
As a shooting guard, how important is it that you have confidence in your shot so that you are not afraid to keep shooting even when you are struggling?
(This season), I’ve been working on my shooting skills in the daily practice, so if I miss a shot, five in a row, or more than that, I’m a believer (in my shot).
I have confidence I can knock down the shot.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received as a player?
I don’t really have a special one so far, but if I name it, it is probably newspaper comments about me.
It was written that I was a penetrator last year, however this year I showed some shooting skills, 6-for-7 (on 3-pointers) in the opening game. So I was very happy with what was written in the article from a local Okinawan newspaper.
After last season finished, how did you prepare for the 2008-09 season? And what was the focus of your offseason workouts?
I worked on my conditioning and on my physical strength . . . to finish shots strongly and improve my body balance. I also worked on quickness and agility in Okinawa.
When Dai Oketani, the former Oita HeatDevils’ floor boss, was named the Golden Kings’ new coach in June, what did he say were the top things for you to work on in those offseason workouts?
After the head coach was hired, Oketani and I talked about what the coach’s demands are. So I worked on a couple of things he asked me for, especially on shooting, outside shooting, (and) I put an (extra) effort on outside shooting.
What are the keys to your success as a 3-pointer shooter this season?
This year’s results so far are not only an individual effort. Teammates set good screens to make me wide open for shots, and also the team has strong rebounding so I can concentrate on shooting.
If you were to attend a bj-league game as a fan, which players would you most want to see?
Cohey Aoki (Tokyo Apache) and Michael Gardener (Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix). Even though they are short, they can finish their shots with big men guarding them. So I want to see those kind of small guys shooting the ball against the big guys or making layups.
How do you relax when you are not playing basketball? What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy driving my car on the side of the road. Okinawa’s ocean coast is beautiful. That’s my hobby. And then when I’m at home, I always play soccer games on PlayStation.