The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in the bj-league — Japan’s first professional basketball circuit — which is in its second season. Kazuyuki Nakagawa of the Takamatsu Five Arrows is the subject of this week’s profile.
TAKAMATSU FIVE ARROWS/BJ-LEAGUE PHOTO
Position: Point guard
Height: 181 cm;
Weight: 81 kg
Hometown: Yamaguchi Pref.
Q: What was your experience like playing in the ABA and USBL over the past couple seasons?
I’ve got two things (from it) basically. One is a professional mind and the other is a hungry mind.
You’ve got to have tolerance on the court to play against guards over there (in the United States) and to create your own game. I got stronger in that respect.
Q: How excited are the fans that the Five Arrows are in second place right now?
I haven’t seen other places much yet, though, the fans are excited and the arena is always close to a full house. And the number of fans is still increasing, it feels like. There is not much hooting.
Q: How enjoyable is it to be a part of the bj-league during its infancy?
Everything is the first time for the league, including the management and entertainment. The whole league and all the players are trying to make it more exciting and I think that’s our attraction. We’re trying to boost the league by ourselves, having fun.
Q: Who is your favorite NBA player?
Steve Nash (of the Phoenix Suns). I’ve watched him for a long time, since five or six years ago.
His biggest attraction is that his play selections are different from others. For example, he doesn’t go when we think he does, and he does when we don’t think he does, and he passes the ball when we think he is going to take a shot. In other words, he is unpredictable.
There are so many guys who have great dunks or something like that. But he is a rare man in terms of play selections. I am a point guard, too, and learning from what he does.
Q: Who is your favorite basketball player of all time? Why?
Michael Jordan (of the Chicago Bulls), of course. He is a god.
I saw him playing against Magic (Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals) when I was an elementary school student, and played against the Utah Jazz (in the 1997 and 1998 Finals) when I was in junior high school.
Q: In your own words, what characteristics define your style of play?
Basically, I’m not physically talented or have great leaping ability. I don’t have anything great.
But what I can say with confidence is that I am good at technique and play selections. I can create plays, and take a shot or a pass. In this bj-league, foreign players are strong, so you’ve got to create plays.
(But) I’m not convinced about my plays at all. My season-high is 22 points, but I can do better.
In the game I got hurt in the first quarter (against the Saitama Broncos on Feb. 24), I was aiming at 30 points. But I’m confident I’ve finally grabbed the pace in the bj-league lately.
Q: What has been your biggest thrill, your most unforgettable moment, on the basketball court?
When I was graduating from my university (Senshu University), it had been determined that I would play for Mitsubishi (Melco Dolphins) of the JBL Super League.
Then I went to a tryout of the Long Beach Jam (of the ABA) and I was asked to play for them by head coach Nate Archibald (former Boston Celtics guard and one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players). I think that is it. It was like a dream to me and I was certainly stunned.
Q: What can the bj-league do to become more popular across the nation?
I think by keeping what we’re doing right now, we’ll get more fans. After that, we players have to have pride in our plays, having highly professional minds.
To me, a lot of players are still lacking a mind that they’re earning money by playing this game. The kind of enthusiasm can be felt by fans.
If it is in the States, where players are easily substituted, that kind of consciousness will be generated, though. . .
Q: Who is the toughest teammate you go up against in practice? What makes him tough?
The one who has the strongest leadership is (veteran guard) Rasheed (Sparks), I think. Also, (Makoto) Kita-san has experience as a point guard. He is a different type of player from me.
Q: What specifically can Takamatsu do to become a better team between now and the playoffs?
I think we can be more closer with each other, including both foreigners and Japanese players. There is still inconsistency in our play.
But we can be like a family and cooperate with each other better. It will be depending on how much we get together, because strategies won’t change much from now.
Q: What hobbies do you enjoy when you are not playing basketball?
My hobby is to eat good stuff. I love fish. When I was a child, my family would make me eat fish often, like five days a week and and nights.
Q: Who is the most exciting player in the bj-league to watch?
I guess it’s me (laughs). In the game, I don’t have a bit of mind that I yield to someone. Even to foreigners, because if you’re weaker mentally to foreigners, you surely can’t win against them.