The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Mac Hopson of the Sendai 89ers is the subject of this week’s profile.
Position: Point guard
Ht: 184 cm; Wt: 85 kg
Hometown: Portland, Ore.
Noteworthy: Hopson, whose given name is Phillip Jr., began his collegiate career at North Idaho College before transferring to Washington State. He played his final two collegiate seasons at Idaho, averaging 16.4 points as a junior and 14.4 as a senior in 2009-10. . . . Hopson leads the 89ers in scoring (19.4; No. 4 in the league), assists (4.9; No. 3), steals (1.7; tied for ninth) through last Sunday.
His father, Phil, helped lead Idaho to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in 1982 and later played professionally in Argentina (where Mac Hopson was born) and Australia. The elder Hopson was the Portland Trail Blazers’ ninth-round pick (199th overall selection) in the 1983 NBA Draft; they made Clyde Drexler the 14th overall pick that year.
Last summer, Hopson played in the National Athletic Basketball League, a Pacific Northwest minor league circuit, for the Portland Showtime. He was the All-Star Game MVP and league MVP. The Showtime went 9-3 in the short-season league, with Hopson averaging 31.1 points, 11.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds.
Are you pleased with the impact you’ve made so far this season for the 89ers?
Yeah, I’m pleased, but I think I can play even better to help my teammates and help us win more ballgames. I hold myself to high standards and I have high expectations and I just want to be one of the best.
What aspects of your game would you most like to improve?
I would like to get more assists, getting my teammates involved, making the right plays, reading the defense, scoring, rebounding, steals; defensively, just the all-around game. I feel like I’m an all-around player . . . and I just want to get better in every category that is possible to have the game I need to have.
How would you describe Sendai coach Honoo Hamaguchi’s style as a bench boss? What do you think are his strengths as a coach?
He’s a good coach. He expects a lot out of us, but he won’t say too much to you. He lets you play your game, but when the time comes, he’ll tell you what he expects from you. If you are doing that, he’ll congratulate you.
(More specifically), offensively, we are four out and one in the post, and that allows you to go one-on-one a little bit, play as a team a lot, and he expects us to play as a team. That’s what he wants, including on defense.
Based on the bj-league’s scheduling format, is it harder mentally or physically to be sharp in the second game of back-to-back contests?
No, neither one. I’m always prepared. I try to be prepared mentally and physically. As far as playing the second game, the only thing that will bother me personally is an injury. I’m ready physically unless there is an injury. Mentally, I am always prepared.
You’ve got to have that mentality to be strong, and physically sometimes you can’t help it. But mentally, it helps the physical part; not thinking about doing it and just going in and giving it your all.
What do you feel is the most appealing aspect of the bj-league for the fans?
The fans really get excited when people dunk. When we were in Shimane (Dec. 4-5) during warmups, they got really excited when people dunked it. Everywhere we go when they dunk the basketball, people go “ooooh” and “aaaah.”
They also like flashy play. In our city, they like seeing our teammate Mike Bell dunk. He makes dunks and alley-oops.
Who are your favorite non-basketball athletes and which NBA players do you enjoy following or studying certain aspects of their game?
I’m not sure of individual athletes, but I like following (American) football. I watch a lot of football in the United States.
In the NBA, I love watching the top point guards and try to put some of the things they do well and put them in my game.
(Utah’s) Deron Williams, (New Orleans’) Chris Paul, (Oklahoma City’s) Russell Westbrook, I watch them and take their moves and try to put it into my game. . .
After 35- and 33-point performances in the season-opening series against Akita on Oct. 16-17, did you make a lot of phone calls to family and friends back home? And did that weekend boost your confidence that you can succeed in this league?
I didn’t really make any phone calls at all. But I talk to my parents after every game.
Yeah, it gave me confidence, but I expect that out of myself. It was just one of those weekends that more baskets went in than missed. . .
I’ve always got confidence. It was the first weekend and it was my first pro game, but I just know what I’m capable of. Not to sound full of myself, but I am a humble individual and I just know what I’m capable of.
If you were to write a scouting report of yourself as a player, what phrase would you provide as the main description?
What has been your biggest thrill as a basketball player?
I’m not sure about my biggest thrill in basketball, but I like playing in front of my family — my mom, dad and little sister. They are always there and they are always supporting me.
I love doing this for them as well as myself, because they have so much confidence in me. I just appreciate my family’s support.
What’s the biggest compliment you’ve ever received about your performance on the court?
I’ve gotten compliments from guys telling me if I work hard I can play in the NBA, I could make a team’s roster, I could be one of those guys. I got that from the majority of the people, but we’ll see, and I hope my break comes because I feel my game has been underrated my whole life and if my break comes and God blesses me, I just have to be ready for it.