The Japan Times will be featuring periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Willie Veasley of the Niigata Albirex BB is the subject of this week’s profile.
Ht: 190 cm; Wt: 93 kg
Hometown: Freeport, Ill.
College: Butler Noteworthy: Veasley helped lead the Butler Bulldogs to national prominence, including an appearance in the NCAA Men’s Tournament championship game on April 5 against perennial powerhouse Duke. He was described as Butler’s “Shane Battier,” referring to Veasley’s impact as a versatile, lockdown defender, much like the Houston Rockets’ steady forward. . . . The Bulldogs won 118 games (he played in 134 games) during Veasley’s four-year collegiate career, the most in any four-year span in school history. Veasley became the first player in Butler history to appear in four consecutive NCAA tournaments. . . .
In his first two bj-league games on Oct. 23-24 against the Akita Northern Happinets, Veasley had 17- and 28-point efforts as Niigata earned a season-opening split. In Sunday’s 10-point win, Veasley was 10-for-15 from the field (4-for-5 on 3-point shots). He’s the league’s No. 2 scorer (22.5 points per game) entering the weekend.
How would you describe your first weekend in the bj-league? Did you feel you had the hot hand in the second game against Akita last Sunday?
I think overall the weekend was good because we got a win, we didn’t come away 0-2. I feel that my play was pretty good, my teammates found me and I was in a position to make things happen, and my shot was feeling good from 3-point range in the second game. They kept getting me the ball and I saw an opportunity to make something happen.
What are your main goals for the 2010-11 season?
Really, our goal is to win the championship. We want to go in every night and compete and play our best — each player that steps on the court. I just want to keep improving and keep getting better as a player, and there’s no better way than to win a game.
Night in and night out, I want to come out and play hard and do anything my team needs me to do to win.
Have you adjusted to Albirex coach Masaya Hirose’s system quicker than you expected? Or has it been a greater challenge than you thought it would be?
I have to say that the adjustment has not been that bad. He’s a defensive coach, he stresses defense and that’s what my college coach (Brad Stevens) mostly stresses.
(On offense), we move the ball around and get it to the open man. Go inside first, our bigs get a touch and let them get to work; if they can’t get a look, then we go back outside. And if they can’t get a look, then we go back inside.
In a Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette article last spring, Butler’s Gordon Hayward was quoted as saying you’re “just kind of the glue that holds us all together.” Is that the type of role you’d like to have for this Niigata team?
Yeah, when I am on the court and coach needs anything done, I want him to be able to look at me and say, “Guard this person, go out and rebound, go out and get a shot that’s open.” Basically whatever the coach needs me to do I am willing to do that, and be the person he can depend on in any situation.
As a first-year pro, is it easier for you to focus just on basketball instead of juggling university classes and basketball?
I don’t have to worry about staying up late and studying. (He laughs) Knowing I don’t have classes and all that stuff now. I guess it does make it easier.
So do you have more energy now for basketball?
I won’t say I wasn’t able to focus (on basketball), but my focus is that much better now that I don’t have to study for a test. . . . I can just put all my effort toward basketball.
Do you believe April’s Final Four experience prepared you for living and playing overseas?
I think definitely going into a whole new situation that it’s been helpful. It helped prepare you for living in a country where you don’t know the language and really don’t know anybody, and that was the basic situation with the Final Four.
Which Japanese players on your team have made the biggest impression on you in the short time you’ve been here?
Definitely, (Yuichi) Ikeda, (Naoto) Takushi and (Hirotaka) Kondo. Those three with their ability, really all three of them can do so much on the court. But being from the States you are used to seeing the same people, and then just coming here and seeing everybody playing you realize they are not much different from us.
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