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Lyons embraces leadership position for Takamatsu

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Dexter Lyons of the Takamatsu Five Arrows is the subject of this week’s profile.

Position: Guard/forward

Age: 32

Ht: 198 cm

Wt: 95 kg

Hometown: College Park, Georgia

College: Central Florida

Noteworthy: Lyons is in his third season in the bj-league. He was a standout for the Miyazaki Shining Suns in 2011-12 before joining Takamatsu last season. The Five Arrows were coming off a 2-50 season, and he helped them make an 18-win improvement under Kenzo Maeda, the second-year coach. Lyons is Takamatsu’s leading scorer (16.1 points per game) through Sunday. He scored a season-best 30 points on Oct. 26 against Shimane. . . .

Five years after his college career came to an end, the University of Central Florida sports media relations office summed up Lyons’ time on the basketball team this way in a 2009 press release: “Many remember Dexter Lyons for his huge afro. Despite the big hair, the small forward, who helped lead the Knights to their finest campaign at the Division I level in 2003-04, should simply be recognized as a winner.

“One of the best defensive players in school history, Lyons starred for the Knights from 2002-04. During that time, UCF won 46 games. As a senior, Lyons was a key component on a team that went 25-6 overall, 17-3 in Atlantic Sun action and participated in the NCAA Tournament…”

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Takamatsu entered this weekend’s series against the Osaka Evessa with a 3-7 record. What do you consider key things the team needs to improve to climb to .500 or above?

I think as a leader of the squad we need to focus on the task at hand with our team defense matchups. Many times I recall in the season a great defensive quarter, then we lose focus on the opponent’s player personnel, like knowing where the shooters are and when not to help, causing us to lose a game or lose a big lead. As far as on the offense side of the ball, we need our veteran Japanese players to become more aggressive. At times they become timid on offense, causing the team not to be balanced.

Seeing Five Arrows coach Kenzo Maeda on a day-in, day-out basis, how would you describe his personality?

Coming from last season up till now, Kenzo is definitely a student of this great game of basketball game. . . . He is constantly figuring strategic improvements within his system. Coach Kenzo definitely has a cool, calm and collective personality — the big three Cs I call it. His background in U.S. basketball (former guard at Division II Nebraska-Kearney) in his past gives him a better understanding of this great game of basketball. This is great for me because as a player it gives me room to talk about the game from a player’s point of view. I’m happy with all his attributes as a head coach because he is continuing to evolve and learn the game of basketball.

Veteran swingman Hiroyuki Kikuchi has played for the team since the beginning in 2006-07. From your observations, then, does he command a certain respect above and beyond a typical veteran because he has been with the team through the good times and the tough times, including the 2-50 season in 2011-12?

My brother Kiku, Kikuchi-san, is a person where if you show him that you want to win at all costs, he will be there to fight all the battles with you side by side. His presence on and off the court is quite interesting to watch. He is silly at times and still has this switch to turn on when it’s time for business. I think from the beginning he has learned so many different ways to be a better basketball player.

If I ever need anything I (tell) Kiku, and which ever Japanese player I am referring to, listens and follow his instructions.

By playing college ball at both community college (Daytona Beach) and a Division I university (Central Florida) did your hunger and desire to have a long, prosperous pro career increase as the seasons marched on from college frosh to senior?

By having two older brothers, James and Dorsett that started my competitive and hungry spirit. My desire to play basketball was established by watching them play one-on-one and then me eventually joining them in our grandparents’ front yard.

By me playing basketball in junior-college at DBCC and Division I at UCF gave me the structure I needed to becoming a better basketball player.

By playing college ball through my freshman year to my senior definitely increased my desire to continue to work to have a long career as a professional basketball player.

I just thank God that he gave me the talents at an early age to know what I need to do in order to become a professional basketball player.

What do you consider your top achievement as a pro player so far?

Winning two titles with two different clubs in my four years in Spain would be some of my greatest achievements as a professional basketball player. . . . I have learned how to get the most out of my teammates on a professional level with the same foundation I instilled in college, which is “lead by example.” I want to lead in everything related to basketball, at times I was not liked at moments but respected by all because I lead by example.

In your own words, how would you describe yourself as a player? And what’s the top compliment someone has given you about your basketball skills/performances?

I am a winner at all costs. I am very active, energetic, smart and hard-working who does not shy away from adversity as a player. Over my 10 years of professional basketball playing I have heard on numerous occasions that Lyons is the key to his team’s success.

Who has consistently been the most difficult defensive assignment for you in the bj-league over the past three seasons? Or is it two, three guys who pose uniquely gut-wrenching challenges?

(In the) bj-league, I’ve enjoyed playing against (Ryukyu’s Anthony) McHenry, (ex-Shimane star Michael) Parker and (Iwate’s Josh) Peppers. (Against) McHenry because of his size and he plays well with his back to the basket as a forward and he also plays defense when I have the ball on offense. (Against) Parker because he is very crafty knows where the ball is at all times. Last, but not least Peppers, he is an outstanding player. The reason I chose him is because it’s for bragging rights back at our old alma mater, UCF.

Takamatsu is indeed famous for its udon noodles. So what’s your opinion of Shikoku Island’s famous food?

Udon restaurants are all over the region they are very different but I like them very much. I eat at Tamoya, a popular udon/tempura restaurant almost every day for lunch. I also like the sweets throughout this prefecture.

In college you were recognized as a defensive stopper and a guy who collected steals in a hurry. Is your reputation as a veteran pro similar?

I have always thrived off of being able to play defense. I was always told in high school in College Park, Georgia, at North Clayton High School by my coaches, Lewis Wilkerson and Kimieon Turner, that “defense wins championships.” This quote has never left my side in my 10 years of professional basketball. With my reputation, to some I was a defensive player, while in college, (but) I led my teams and my leagues in scoring on offense. It is just part of my DNA, but to me defense takes pride.

Who’s your favorite current NBA player(s) that you enjoy watching? Is your all-time favorite player still in the game? If not, who is he?

Right now in the NBA it is a toss-up with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant with these group of guys they demand so much from their teammates, but they lead by an example. I do not have a favorite all-time player because I did not look at the game as one individual. I watch numerous of players and took a piece of their games and try to instill that into my style of play.

You have Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Clyde Drexler, Dr. J (Julius Erving), Allen Iverson, Dominique Wilkins, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley. . . . There were many more players that I watched as an adolescent. All were great so I could not pick one. I love this game!

If bj-league commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi would change two, three things that you’d suggest are league shortcomings, what would you tell him?

(About) the balance of the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference by the West being more talented than the Eastern Conference teams.

To hold all the referees accountable for studying the game of basketball and to learn English.

As a tourist, where have you most enjoyed visiting during your travels in Japan?

All of the places I visited Japan have been great. If I had to pick (one), Okinawa would be my favorite right now because of the weather and the laid-back atmosphere.

After your playing days are over, what are your future goals/career aspirations?

I plan to become a head coach one day and also start a program for student athletes from young ages to college ages to implement the knowledge about finding a balance with basketball and off-court activities. I plan to work and teach the game of basketball from the fundamentals of the game.