The Japan Times features periodical interviews with players in the bj-league. Taishiro Shimizu of the Miyazaki Shining Suns is the subject of this week’s profile.
Position: Point guard
Ht: 183 cm; Wt: 85 kg
College: Tsukuba University
Noteworthy: A three-time All-Star (2006-07, 2007-08 and this season), Shimizu spent the past five seasons with the Saitama Broncos, one of the bj-league’s original six teams. He averaged 8.5 points per game in a Broncos uniform and had 731 assists, 251 3-pointers and 226 assists in 5,990 minutes from 2005-10.
This season, Shimizu, the Miyazaki captain, is averaging 10 points in 26 games. He’s the team leader in assists (113) and 3-pointers (46), while No. 2 in steals (36, seven behind former University of North Carolina standout Jackie Manuel).
What do you consider the biggest strength of the Shining Suns as a first-year team?
I feel like the biggest strengths of our team are the enthusiasm and energy that everyone brings.
Do you feel you’ve had a solid season so far, with 10 points per game, many steals, assists and 3-pointers, as well as a spot on the Western Conference’s All-Star team last Sunday in Osaka?
My role has changed (playing for Miyazaki), and there’s a lot more things that I have to do for this team, but I do believe I’m having a productive season.
Is it a great challenge to be a captain for an expansion team? And to be a good captain, what do you think are the important responsibilities you have on a weekly basis?
The greatest challenge of being a good captain is not on the floor, but off the floor — daily communication, for example — with players and coaches. Helping to establish good relationships between American players, Japanese players and the coach is the biggest challenge to be the captain of an expansion team.
Were you excited to be chosen to play in the 2010-11 All-Star Game for the third time, but first since the 2007-08 season?
Of course, I’m very honored and very excited. Miyazaki is my home, and to be selected by the fans and local people, I feel very honored.
You are more than 16 months older than Shining Suns coach Koto Toyama (who turned 28 on Jan. 19). So does he ask for your opinions from time to time, such as about strategy or advice on talking to older or younger players?
Coach shares responsibility. . . . He gives me freedom. (For example), if I want to hold a pep talk before games. And he does ask for suggestions, and he leaves it up to me on and off the floor. It’s a sign of respect and I appreciate that.
What has been your biggest thrill or unforgettable moment as a player? What makes this game or moment so special to you?
The biggest thrill or unforgettable moment is when the game is close and I make game-tying or winning baskets. That intensity, or emotional moments, is one of the best things that basketball has to offer.
My best memory this season is when we beat the Northern Happinets at Akita for our first road win in team history (84-83 on Oct. 30).
(He spoke in general terms about the thrill of turning his passion for basketball into a career, saying that a euphoric victory, like the one against Akita, etched a special memory in his mind.)
Basketball is part of my life and to make it a career and part of my life the whole time (is special).
What do you think is the best way for the bj-league to attract more fans across the nation? Do you think, for instance, that the league’s marketing strategy is doing enough to attract new fans? And what can the league do better, in your opinion, to get more sellouts in the future, more TV air time, newspaper coverage, etc.?
The league is doing the best job it can do, but something that each team can do is make more effort to attract fans by holding more clinics and make media interviews a priority. That should come first for players before games or winning.
Players in this league (now) are the foundation for this league like the NBA in the 1940s. (That includes playing for lower salaries, he admitted). And as this league develops, players must sacrifice for the development of the league.
In your first season on a Western Conference team after five bj-league seasons with the Broncos, have you enjoyed facing different teams more frequently? And which of the West’s players do you like to compete against one-on-one?
In the Western Conference, I feel there’s a lot tougher level of competition.
In the East, there’s very good teams and very weak teams. The West has more balance. Every week you have to be prepared to play, every week.
As far as going one-on-one against certain players, I enjoy going up against American players. Not everybody in Japan can do that: to compete at a high level against Americans.
Who is your favorite NBA player of all time? Why?
Michael Jordan. Growing up in Japan, Michael Jordan introduced the NBA to me. He sort of became a part of me. And the next thing you know, MJ is in front of the screen . . . and I idolized him.
(Among current players), I like smaller guys and relate to them, guys who run the floor and at the same time can score and take over the game, those kind of players.
Who do you consider the bj-league’s top player since the league’s inception? Why?
(Former Saitama Broncos forward) David Benoit. He’s an ex-NBA player and he played at the highest level of competition, playing for the Utah Jazz along with Karl Malone and John Stockton. To see him practicing every day was something shocking. He’s one of the greatest players in this league’s history.
Who do you think is the best Japanese player in league history? Why?
It’s hard to name just one player, but . . . (Tokyo Apache guard) Cohey (Aoki) and (Niigata Albirex BB forward Yuichi) Ikeda. . . . I’ve got a lot of respect for them.
Away from basketball, how do you like to spend time with your family?
I like to go fishing. I’ve gone a few times to the river. And I like to go to the beach in Miyazaki, the ocean near the mountains.
Sometimes, I like to space out at home.
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