The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Akitomo Takeno of the Rizing Fukuoka is the subject of this week’s profile.
Position: Point guard
Ht: 173 cm
Wt: 65 kg
College: Daito Bunka University
Noteworthy: Takeno shot a league-best 46.6 percent (75-for-163) from 3-point range last season. Since entering the league in the 2007-08 season, he has been one of the league’s best outside shooters, making 39.0 percent from beyond the 3-point arc through the end the 2010-11 campaign. In addition, he shot 85.6 percent at the free-throw line entering this season.
Takeno scored a career-best 13.0 points per game for the Niigata Albirex BB in 2008-09. He rejoined Fukuoka last season and averaged 10.2 ppg.
In 16 games (15 starts) this season, he’s averaging 12.3 ppg. As expected, he has solid numbers on long-range shooting (27-for-72 on 3s) and a terrific 46-for-52 effort at the charity stripe.
He’s registered 51 assists with 27 turnovers. He scored a season-best 18 points against Miyazaki on Oct. 22 and dished out a season-high eight assists on Nov. 5 against Oita.
One area where Takeno has plenty of room for improvement is 2-point field-goal shooting (35-for-94 through Dec. 4). Simply put, he’s one of the more exciting and talented young Japanese players in the bj-league.
Do you feel the Rizing’s confidence increased by beating the two-time defending champion Hamamatsu twice last weekend?
Well, the last games were very tough games, but I try to play very good for the team and because we could (sweep) Hamamatsu I’m happy.
Entering the 2011-12 season, you’ve earned a reputation as an excellent shooter from 3-point range and at the charity stripe. Do you take personal pride in being one of the best Japanese and overall pure shooters in the bj-league?
Last year I got the 3-point shooter’s percentage title, so this year I also want to get the same title.
Kevin Palmer, who currently leads the league in scoring, is one of the top newcomers to the bj-league this season. What do you think makes him such a talented all-around player? Can you give a few examples?
Kevin Palmer is a very good player. Every player can run plays with Kevin, and everybody learns from him, the way he plays, the way he leads and his mental approach to the game.
In your opinion, what are Fukuoka coach Tadaharu Ogawa’s strengths as the leader of your basketball team?
Coach Ogawa always listens to the players’ opinions, so players want to play for him and they understand his playing style . . . they want to play for him.
Now in your fifth season in the bj-league, what personal goals have you set or what areas of improvement, such as stronger defense, more aggressive rebounding, are you focused on?
My focus is on getting a championship in the bj-league. I want to change my mentality, make improvements so I will play my best.
From what you’ve seen, is Gary Hamilton the best passing power forward or center in the league? And what are your impressions of him now that he’s been on your team for a few months?
I think that Gary’s the best passing player among power forwards. I’m a 3-point shooter, so Gary’s rebounds are very good for me.
Growing up, did you have a long-time ambition to be a pro player? Or when did you begin — at what age — seriously pursuing basketball as a career opportunity?
When I was 22 years old, I was thinking about my future: Do I go to work in a company? But I couldn’t imagine that lifestyle and I like basketball so I decided to be a hoop player.
Which Japanese player (or players) is the toughest matchup for you in the bj-league when you are on offense? Why? And which player is your hardest defensive assignment in this league?
My toughest matchup is Sendai’s Takehiko Shimura because he is little (160 cm) and every time he sticks with me on offense. I always create my space to get a score but he doesn’t give me space.
On defense, American players cause difficulties for me.
In your own words, how would you describe yourself as a basketball player? Think of a few words that best do this.
I always try to attack the basket so I try to think about that: every possession to be so aggressive.
When the Rizing play a road game, which city or road arena has the best atmosphere for basketball in your opinion? Why is that?
The best atmosphere is in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. It’s so crowded and people get crazy to cheer and the play is so exciting. Shimane has a good arena.
After your playing career is over, what type of job are you interested in having?
I don’t know for sure, but I want to teach basketball at high school or junior high school. I don’t have a teaching license yet, so I’ll try to get one first.
Away from basketball, what are a few of your hobbies and things you do to relax?
I like fishing for black bass — lake fishing — sometimes in a boat, sometimes on land. I also like window shopping.