Versatile Bozeman making impact for Toshiba Brave Thunders

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

For sure, there are countless basketball players who can compete at multiple positions. But it’s hard to find someone that’s as exceptionally versatile as Cedric Bozeman, who basically plays all positions but center.

To sum it up, Cedric Bozeman, the newest import for Toshiba, has quickly become recognized for his all-around abilities and gives the Brave Thunders a better shot at capturing the National Basketball League championship.

“I’m telling him that we want him to play at all positions but center,” Toshiba head coach Takuya Kita said of Bozeman, who was acquired by the NBL Eastern Conference club before this season. “He’s got good ball handling skills and can carry the ball (from the backcourt). With him, we have more variations now.”

So what is Bozeman’s genuine spot on the court? What’s the position that he can take advantage of the most?

The 198-cm UCLA product enrolled at the Southern California school and became the team’s starting point guard. He led the Pac-10 Conference (now called the Pac-12) in assists in his junior year, 2003-04.

Then he tore his ACL. After the recovering from the injury, he moved to small forward. The Bruins advanced to the NCAA title game (losing to the University of Florida in April 2006) and he was a key scorer at the 3 spot.

Although he wasn’t drafted, Bozeman had a short stint with the Atlanta Hawks in 2006-07 (23 games) and he played point guard for them. He said that he also played the same position at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California (NFL quarterback Matt Leinart attended the school at the same time) and overseas, too.

Bozeman said, however, that he doesn’t really have a preference for any particular position. He simply relishes being on the wooden floor, no matter what kind of duties he’s given.

“I just want to play basketball,” Bozeman said with a grin. “As long as I’m on the court and I can help the team, I’m happy.”

Kita has started him at small forward, but at the same time, frequently gives him the primary ball handler role to stretch out the floor.

“We think he’s fitting for the 3 spot most,” Kita said. “But we also have plays in which we use him as a point guard so we have an edge (over the opposing point guard) there.”

Nick Fazekas said that the addition of Bozeman would be a big plus for the Brave Thunders, who finished runner-up last season, in the final year of the Japan Basketball League, the NBL’s predecessor.

“Ced plays a crucial role and guys are starting to pick up on that,” said Fazekas, a 211-cm center who was Bozeman’s teammate with the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League. “He’s definitely become our X-factor, who gives us an extra edge.”

Bozeman, who has previously played in Poland, Belgium, China, Malaysia and the Philippines, has averaged 15.2 points, 2.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds this year. He’s shot 56 percent from the field in eight games during the 2013-14 campaign for the Brave Thunders, who currently have the best record (7-1) in the Eastern Conference.

When he joined Toshiba, it was Bozeman’s first time to be in Japan. Yet he’s quickly gotten along in his new country and with his new teammates. While Fazekas and Mamadou Diouf, who’s a converted Japanese, aided his transition to the fresh circumstances, Bozeman’s easy-going, laid-back character and earnestness on the court helped him adapt to the new environment.

“They’ve welcomed me open-armed,” Bozeman said of his teammates. “It was a smooth transition.”

Fazekas said, “Here, he’s another piece of the puzzle and he’s a great humble player. He’s played a lot of different roles because he’s played in a lot of different places, different countries. He has the ability to fit in wherever he needs to fit in.”

Kita smilingly said that the American has been a paragon for the other Brave Thunders.

“He works so hard and cares about his body, too,” Kita said. “He’s proving to his Japanese teammates that he was a former NBA player. That’s been really helpful.”

Bozeman hopes to be a role model for his team and move the fans that watch his game in Japan.

“I just want to leave a positive image, positive reflection of myself on the country of Japan and in the league as well,” Bozeman said. “I want to show the people here that I’m a well-mannered guy. I don’t say much, I just go out there and do my business.”