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. Dameion Baker of the Tokyo Apache is the subject of this week’s profile.
Position: Forward Age: 29 Ht: 193 cm Wt: 100 kg Hometown: Jacksonville, N.C.
Q: Imagine yourself in the role of TV commentator for a minute. What words would you use to describe your style of play?
Baker: He rebounds, he defends, he’s tough, he’s scrappy. He hustles. They would say that I play with heart and I try my best every play. That’s what I want to portray, so I hope they see that.
Do you feel you’ve made a good impression as a player here since re-joining the team in January?
Yes, really I am because this year I have more responsibility because (with) players getting hurt and the changing of roles and stuff like that I came here with more responsibilities. So I have answered those responsibilities by scoring more or rebounding more, things like that.
Me, I am pleased with my performance but I am not pleased with the outcome of the game.
If I could’ve scored one or two points a game and we’d win them, then it’s all good.
What does it mean to you to be playing ball in Japan for the second straight season after also playing professionally in Germany?
It’s a blessing to be over here to experience new places and to see new people and getting friends. . . . and every moment I appreciate the opportunity of being here.
How has playing for Tokyo Apache coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant helped you become a better, smarter basketball player?
He gets you to understand different aspects of the game as far as positioning, understanding when to do different things and why, and then at the same time he wants you to play smart but also he expects you to be a player who understands. He’s very intelligent so it kind of shows in how I play.
Who are a couple of pro players you really like to model your play after?
The (players) I always admired were Scottie Pippen and Grant Hill because they did everything.
They rebounded, scored, blocked shots, and that’s how I model my game. I don’t want to be just a rebounder or block shots. I want to be able to rebound, block shots, run the court, shoot, drive.
I want to be considered an all-around player, so I can help this team.
(Baker has averaged 16.4 points per game since making his season debut on Jan. 6. He’s picked up 142 rebounds in those 20 games and added 27 assists, 29 steals and four blocked shots.)
What has been the biggest difference in the bj-league last year, the league’s first season, and now?
Well, this year I think it’s just getting out more to the fans. There are more fans coming. The big thing is they are coming and understanding the game.
What do you do to get yourself fired up before a game? What about after?
I always try to listen to music before and after. Mellow, slow music is what I like.
What do you hope you’ve done this year as a player to improve your game?
Well, personally what I want people to see is that I play hard and hustle. I play with heart. That’s basically how I see that. I play hard. I try my best.
Who is the toughest player to defend in the league?
To me the toughest person to hold would be (injured) teammate John Humphrey. John, he can jump, he’s a slasher, he’s a shooter. You see, that’s a hard combination to hold, because you don’t know if he’s going to shoot and then he drives by you; and then at the same time if you’re on him, he can jump over you.