Mitsui earns trip to streetball finals at Alcatraz Island

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Hideki Mitsui is headed to one of the world’s most famous prisons, where the “Tokyo No. 1 Boss Dog” will try his hand at ruling the yard.

Mitsui survived an impromptu 3-point shootout against bj-league star Masayuki Kabaya and then beat good friend Tomoya “Worm” Ochiai to win the Japan final of the Red Bull King of the Rock one-on-one basketball tournament on Saturday afternoon.

“This is my first time playing in an event like this,” Mitsui said. “I didn’t really know how to go about things. I’m happy I was able to make it to the end and win.”

The victory means Mitsui will head to Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco, where he’ll be one of 64 players from around the globe to compete in the Red Bull King of the Rock World Finals on Sept. 28.

The Red Bull King of the Rock places top streetballers in one-one-one competition in games lasting for 5 minutes, with a 2-minute overtime period when needed.

Among some of the bigger names competing in the Japan final were former national team player Yoshiro Saito, Chihiro Ikeda, a current member of the 3×3 national team, and two “special guest ballers,” Kabaya of the recently crowned bj-league champion Yokohama B-Corsairs, and “the man everybody knows,” at least according to the on-court DJ, guard Kazuyuki Nakagawa, a former American Baseball Association All-Star. (Nakagawa has played in the bj-league and JBL.)

Mitsui and Kabaya, this year’s bj-league playoff MVP, traded 3-pointer after 3-pointer in an entertaining semifinal duel, with Kabaya at one juncture frantically waving his hand in Mitsui’s face and urging him to shoot. Mitsui obliged and sank the shot, one of a string of four drained by the pair on successive possessions. The 30-year-old Mitsui made a few more big shots than his counterpart and advanced with an 18-17 victory.

Ochiai reached the final after using his size against the smaller, quicker Ikeda, who controlled the game early on with a quick first step. Ochiai’s size eventually won out, and he advanced to the final to face Mitsui.

The final round was held after a very brief intermission and both players looked spent at the start.

Mitsui hit a couple of 3-pointers and was able to jump out to an early 7-0 lead and eventually held off Ochiai for a 19-14 victory.

“I was really tired at the end,” Mitsui said. “I was basically running on adrenaline I think.”