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Setoyama says team play has Kyoto on pace for Final Four

One on One


Staff Writer

The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Kyosuke Setoyama of the Kyoto Hannaryz is the subject of this week’s profile.

Position: Guard/forward

Age: 29

Ht: 187 cm;

Wt: 76 kg

Hometown: Miyazaki

College: Tsukuba University

Noteworthy: Setoyama was the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft in Tokyo. Before joining Kyoto, he played for the JBL’s Aisin Sea Horses. In a draft-day interview with The Japan Times, Setoyama said, “Defense is my specialty, my weapon. Every coach likes and cares about defense, and I want to demonstrate my defensive ability.” . . . Entering this season, he had appeared in 96 of Kyoto’s 100 regular-season games (77 starts) and averaged 4.2 points per game, with 282 assists and 78 steals. He’s averaging 4.7 points in 30 starts, primarily playing at point guard, for the Hannaryz (21-9 through Feb. 12), with 92 assists against 46 turnovers. He’s made 29 steals for the Final Four contender.

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It is rare for American or NBA players to wear jersey number zero. Does this number have a special meaning for you? Or do you like the number zero? Please explain.

Yes, there is meaning. I wanted to reset my basketball career, so that’s why I wanted to have my basketball career and restarted basketball again seriously (in Kyoto).

Having played for the Hannaryz since the team’s beginnings, are you happy with the year-by-year improvements, from 17-35 in 2009-10 to 28-20 last season (and a playoff appearance) to a 21-9 record through Sunday?

I’m not satisfied because the only thing I care about is to win a championship, so even though we are getting a better record, I’m only satisfied when we win the whole thing.

What are Kyoto bench boss Honoo Hamaguchi’s strengths as a head coach? What has he done to build a better team, in your mind? And how is he different than ex-Hannaryz coaches David Benoit and Kazuto Aono?

I have been playing only half a year with Honoo-san so it’s hard to answer what his strengths are. But I think what Honoo-san does well is he lets the whole team think and fight and we share many things among the teammates — responsibilities.

He says, “let’s think about this,” and we all think about passing, for example, in a meeting.

The main thing is that Hamaguchi emphasizes team play. The last couple of seasons, the previous coaches maybe relied too much on foreign players.

With experienced Japanese players, including yourself, Taizo Kawabe, Naoto Nakamura and Sunao Murakami, strong American players in Lance Allred, Rick Rickert, Jermaine Boyette and Lee Cummard, as well as big man Babacar Camara, do you think the Hannaryz have a good chance to reach the Final Four?

I think we have a good chance to make it to the Final Four, but the key for us in order to be there is overseas players and Japanese players have to be together and play team basketball. That’s the key to make it to the Final Four.

What do you think the team can focus on doing — improvements — to be a better team in April and May? Can you offer a few brief examples?

The most important thing to do to be better in April and May is each practice how hard we can practice every day is the key, and then if we practice hard every time, then the team will step up.

For example, if players are getting tired, or if things won’t go well, there are days like that, but players have to think what else they can do to make the team better. Those are things everybody has to think about.

Instead of thinking about oneself — “Oh, I’m tired today” — even those days you still have to think about the team to get everybody better.

At what age did you begin playing basketball for a school/club team? And did you have a dream for many years to become a player after college?

I started playing basketball at 9 years old. And actually, I wanted to be a pro since elementary school.

How important is it for the bj-league to begin showing more games on TV across the nation to increase awareness about the sport?

It’s important to be recognized by media, but basketball is still a minor sport in Japan, and it’s still not world-level (basketball), so I think doing small (promotional) activities in the local areas, for the local people, is really important to be recognized by the people.

By thinking about the sport as a global game, players can compare it to other nations and then think about things they can do to get better.

Are you comfortable in your role as a floor leader despite not having a major scoring responsibility? And do you rate passing and dribbling the ball as two of your top skills?

I think in the past my strength was not in passing and dribbling, but my strength is intelligence on the court during the game. That’s why I’ve been asked to be a floor leader, and I still want to be better — smarter — about basketball.

Comparing the style of play in the JBL and the bj-league, what is the biggest difference in your mind? And do you consider the bj-league more entertaining for fans to watch? If so, why?

I think in comparing the JBL and bj-league, the bj-league is focusing more on individual players whereas the JBL is playing basketball more like team basketball. The JBL is more team-oriented basketball, but in the bj-league it’s easier to show what each player can do individually.

Regarding the fans, the bj-league is thinking more about the fans, because it’s a more exciting game — dunk shots, or easier to understand basketball — and the cheerleaders and fans can watch the local groups, bands or dancers or local entertainment actually get to do something in the basketball game.

After your playing days are over, what career would you like to have?

Basketball coach.

Which NBA players, past or present, are your favorites? Why do you enjoy watching them?

• (Celtics star) Ray Allen. I’ve liked him for a long time because he’s pretty aggressive and he can attack the basket and he makes a beautiful shot.

• (Bulls guard and reigning NBA MVP) Derrick Rose. He’s a very good offensive player and an exciting player to watch.

• (Clippers point guard) Chris Paul, because he can make the assist and also he makes other teammates better.