The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. The league’s fifth season began in October. Hirohisa Takada of the Osaka Evessa is the subject of this week’s profile.
Ht: 186 cm; Wt: 83 kg
College: Ritsumeikan University
Noteworthy: This is Takada’s first season in the bj-league after wrapping up his college career in 2009. The Evessa entered the weekend on a 10-game winning streak (it ended on Saturday) and have gone 18-4 since Takada joined the starting lineup on Jan. 23. He has started 22 straight games and appeared in 40 contests this season. He scored a career-best 18 points on Valentine’s Day, knocking down 6 of 9 3-point shots. . . . . He is averaging 5.0 points per game. . . . He offered words of appreciation for Evessa bench boss Kensaku Tennichi, whom he affectionately calls Coach Ten.
What are your top memories from Ritsumeikan University as a college basketball player?
As a senior, my school made it the All-Intercollegiate Basketball Championships, and it was the first time we’d been there in seven years.
Also, my best memory was when I was a sophomore and the coach asked me to play point guard as I played in a tournament against other freshman and sophomores. That was kind of exciting for me. . .
During Osaka’s lengthy winning streak, what do you think have been the keys to victory after victory after victory?
The key to victory after victory is, of course, our high-intensity defense. That is our team goal all season, and the defense is getting better. Also, the offense, especially the Japanese players are putting up 10-plus points a game in the last few games in addition to (the scoring of) Lynn Washington and Ryan Blackwell, and that is a key to victory right now.
Has your confidence level and approach to preparation improved since you were inserted into the starting lineup in January?
Well, it hasn’t changed anything in terms of practicing for the game. It doesn’t matter if I’ll be a starter or come off the bench. But if I play in the starting lineup right now, coach wants me to do something (to make an impact). He believes that he needs defense first, and coach needs my defense in the game.
On offense, I need to be in the right position to take a shot. . . . It is a good challenge for me.
In your opinion, what are Tennichi’s top strengths as a basketball coach?
He is always saying practice is the most important thing for the whole basketball season. If you don’t practice hard, he won’t put you in the game. It gives me high motivation to play hard at practices so I can play in the game harder than I practiced.
That’s the best key to playing under Coach Ten; that’s his best challenge to us to become better players, I think.
Coach Ten makes practice count for everything. That’s why I think he’s the best coach in the bj-league.
(Coach’s philosophy) starts with defense. If the defense is good, the offense will be good, he says. That’s a very good thing for me for my whole basketball career.
What do you think has been your biggest adjustment from playing college ball to being a pro player in the bj-league?
When I became a pro, I was surprised how good the defense was! And it was my first time playing with so many international players on the same court. That was the biggest difference.
The most important thing I have changed is what I can do in this game. In college, there are very few role players. The guys who can score carry the team. . . In the pros, we need to share the ball and have more discipline in the game, much more than in the college game.
Now, I have to always think about what I can do in the game as a player.
What valuable lessons have you learned from veteran standouts such as Evessa power forward Lynn Washington and teammates Ryan Blackwell and David Palmer? Can you offer a few examples?
As you know after the All-Star Game (on Jan. 31), I had started to get more playing time and the veteran guys like Washington said that, hey, you are a rookie, try everything. Don’t be afraid of playing the role. Try everything you want, try every minute. You are a challenger, but play like you are not a challenger. That’s a word of advice from Washington.
Who are your favorite current NBA players? What about past favorites?
My favorite current NBA players are Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Of course they score a lot but at the same time they are good defenders also, not only just scoring in the game.
When I watch the games, I believe Kobe and LeBron are the most high-intensity guys on defense and I enjoy watching them.
My favorite player was (recent Hall of Fame inductee) Scottie Pippen. I learned a lot by watching him. He’s like a good teacher for me on the court. With the Bulls, of course there was Michael Jordan, but when Pippen played he also helped to lead the team at the same time, so I respected Pippen as an NBA star. That’s why I picked (jersey No.) 33.
Who are the most exciting players in the bj-league? Why?
The most exciting player in the league is Lynn Washington, I think, because he leads the team, he gives us high intensity and enthusiasm, and he has a passion for basketball that’s so great and I can learn from that a lot.
What do you think the bj-league can do a better job of to increase its popularity across the nation?
It’s not like baseball and soccer in Japan. The bj-league is kind of a new face in the sports world right now. So the bj-league needs to (increase its coverage) in more media outlets — TV, newspapers, everything — especially for the games. If the game is live on TV, it gives players high motivation, and also fans that don’t know about the bj-league they can learn what kind of players are in the league.
We need to try harder to get more media (coverage), asking for interviews and things like that. We need to call more media in the future. We need to ask them to come to the games. We need more relationships with the media.