/ |

Kyoto’s Kotzur deft with both hands

by

Staff Writer

There’s no rule, written or spoken, that requires basketball players to have the ability to shoot with both hands.

It doesn’t hurt, though.

In fact, the ability to put points on the board with both paws only complicates matters for individual defenders and opponents.

Many players, though, can’t shoot the ball with both hands. Many never even try.

Kyoto Hannaryz power forward Kevin Kotzur isn’t one of those players.

Especially from close range, he’s effective with the ball in either hand, and is equally skilled at making a move with either hand.

During Sunday’s game against the host Sunrockers Shibuya, Kotzur’s offensive versatility was on full display. His low-post game flourished with nifty footwork and strong fundamentals. He made left-handed layups and right-handed putbacks. He kept Shibuya defenders guessing what he’d do next — and with which hand he’d do it.

The Hannaryz mainstay was a pivotal force in Kyoto’s 79-75 win. It wasn’t a flashy team-high 21-point (10-for-13 shooting), nine-rebound performance in 25 minutes, but it reinforced the value of being an ambidextrous shooter.

The 27-year-old Kotzur commented on this aspect of his game.

“Every player should put an emphasis on being able to finish with both hands around the basket,” Kotzur told The Japan Times. “First, it leaves the defender off balance. They can’t just concentrate on one hand, which leads to easier shots and points. Second, it provides for more creativity and angles to score and shield the defense.”

Kotzur, a former NBA Development League player for the Santa Cruz Warriors, puts in the necessary work in the gym to make this come to fruition.

“It’s always been a habit to practice with both hands, because you are going to have to do it in games,” he noted. “You have to be able to feel comfort and trust the work you put in.”

The 202-cm veteran is averaging just under 13.3 points and 9.0 rebounds (seventh-highest total in the league) in 41 games. He’s shooting 59.5 percent from the field.

Kotzur credits former NBA great Tim Duncan, who retired from the San Antonio Spurs last summer, for having a positive impact on his approach to the game.

“I was fortunate to grow up close to San Antonio and watch Tim Duncan’s fundamental play all my life,” said Kotzur, who played college ball at NCAA Division II St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

“He kind of made it easy to watch the game and simple to learn because he used fundamentals to beat players, not just raw talent.”

Away from basketball and other sports, Kotzur is right-handed. But at the free-throw line he shoots with his left hand.

Kotzur, who joined the Hannaryz in 2014, remembers developing his hoop-playing ambidexterity while playing for coach Jim Blackburn at La Vernia (Texas) High School.

“My high school coach was a big part in me being able to use both hands,” Kotzur said. “He forced me to really start using my off hand and made sure I would think about it during games in high school.”

Around the Kyoto organization this mindset also shines through, with bench boss Honoo Hamaguchi setting the tone.

“Honoo is also a big teacher of fundamentals and everything we do in practice kinda revolves around that,” Kotzur said. “He expects us to be able to feel confident doing the things we have done all our lives since we were little kids.”

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Hamaguchi acknowledged that Kotzur’s offensive talents are enhanced by his commitment to scoring with both hands.

This skill is an “important part” of Kotzur’s all-around game, Hamaguchi said.

FIBA spotlight: Dynamic point guard Yuki Togashi of the Chiba Jets was recently featured in an article on FIBA.com (“Togashi wishes to realize dream of playing at FIBA Asia Cup and beyond”).

The article begins by noting that he he’s been “hogging the headlines of Japan’s shiny new B. League these past few months.”

Looking ahead to this summer’s FIBA Asia Cup, Togashi admitted that the Japan national team faces an important challenge.

“I understand it is very important for Japan to do well in the FIBA Asia Cup as this part of our path for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020,” Togashi told FIBA.com.

“We must gain experience as we take part in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 and play as many games as possible to get a feel of world-class basketball.”

Abbreviated schedule: Sendai (11-28) plays host to Kawasaki (33-6) on Friday and Saturday, while Mikawa (30-9) takes on Shibuya (19-20) in a Saturday-Sunday series. In the other B1 series over the next few days, Tokyo (30-9) faces Tochigi (31-8) on Sunday and Monday.

Roster moves: The Hannaryz on Wednesday announced the addition of small forward Mo Charlo to fill a roster spot vacated by power forward Lawrence Hill.

Hill was in his first season with the Kansai club.

Charlo, a University of Nevada alum who played a starring role on the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix’s 2014-15 bj-league championship team, began the season with the Ryukyu Golden Kings. He was let go in late October.

Kyoto has a 20-21 record.