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Chapman passing on lessons to young Nara teammates

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Joe Chapman of the Bambitious Nara is the subject of this week’s profile.

Position: Guard
Age: 29
Ht: 193 cm
Wt: 95 kg
Hometown: Chicago Heights, Illinois
College: Marquette

Noteworthy: Chapman played for Marquette during the Milwaukee-based school’s memorable run to the 2003 Final Four, an experience he describes below. The veteran backcourt player suited up for pro teams in Colombia, Mexico, Czech Republic and Chile before joining the British Basketball League’s Newcastle Eagles, for whom he played from 2009-13. . . . This season, Chapman is averaging a team-high 16.0 points in 42 games for Nara. He leads the team in 3-pointers made (126) and is second in assists (136) and minutes played (1,404). He scored a season-high 30 points on Dec. 28 against the Toyama Grouses. . . . Playing for Newcastle, he was the BBL’s 2011-12 MVP after averaging 20.2 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 36 games, while shooting 55 percent from inside the arc and 39 percent from 3-point range.

In a recent interview with the Japan Times, Iwate forward Lawrence Blackledge described Chapman this way: “Joe is my Marquette big brother. The year I went to MU was the year he started playing pro ball. He always came back to campus every summer to work out with us and play pickup ball. He is a true veteran. He has played pro ball in several different countries, having personal success and team success as well, winning championships and MVP (honors) in Britain. Great shooter and playmaker, but an even better competitor…”

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The Bambitious (13-29) are building the foundation for the first-year franchise’s future. How would you describe local fans’ support of and interest in the team during your travels in Nara Prefecture?

Local fans have come along way since beginning of the year. This is the first year for fans to root for there city and the support has been tremendous.

If you can pinpoint one thing, what has been most special about playing for a team in its first-ever season?

Watching my Japanese teammates get better each month. We have the youngest team in the league and it was tough early on, but since January we have fought against and beaten every playoff team except Okinawa (Ryukyu), which not a lot of teams can say they beat them, but took them to overtime.

As the team’s leading scorer, do you feel you’ve performed up to your own expectations this season?

Scoring is just one part of the game that people see. I am a natural leader and since last year my coach in England challenged me to be good in all areas not just scoring, and that’s been a perfect role for me on a new franchise with young players because I am a coach on the floor.

Coaching is my passion and teaching young players the game of basketball is always a pleasure.

Nara rookie point guard Tatsuya Suzuki, who is third in the league in assists (5.6 per game), has been one of the top young players in the league and one of the league’s best passers. What type of dribble-drive moves and passes are his best ones?

Tatsuya is very special player. First off, he listens to advice and tries to do what he learned in practice in the games. He has a hard role — he plays the whole game sometimes with no breaks — and still manages to have great assist numbers with low turnovers. I can’t pinpoint his passes because he has a variety of passes that are very good.

What I have taught him is the pick-and-roll game because a lot of teams in the beginning of the year were going under (the pick) a lot and he didn’t know what to do because he was never taught the pick-and-roll. But now he has developed his pick-and-roll game and had a stellar game against Shiga (26 points and eight assists on March 16). I’m proud of his growth; the kid has gotten better each month of the season while playing 40 minutes (a game).

Who do you think is the best all-around player in the bj-league? Why?

Well, there’s a lot of great players in this league. It has a good reputation. I commend everyone who has played in this league because it is very difficult to play 52 games all in which are back to back. For all-around game, I’ll say (Osaka’s) Kevin Galloway and (Iwate’s Lawrence) Trend Blackledge. Best scorers: (Sendai’s) Wendell White and (Kyoto’s) Edwin Ubiles. Best big man: (Gunma’s) Dillion Sneed. Best guards: (Takamatsu’s) Dexter Lyons and (Ryukyu’s) Draelon Burns.

You played alongside Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade, three-time NBA champion, for one season at Marquette. What was he liked on a day-out, day-out basis on and off the court? And how has his great success in the NBA, including three championships, inspired you?

From the first time I competed against Dwyane, I knew he was special, extremely fast and athletic, but a very smart and efficient player. He thought the game out before he attacked. He was always two steps ahead of everyone because his instincts were even at that age very good. I think we as a Marquette family are proud of him for what he does on the court and off the court with his foundation that looks after the youth in Chicago, Milwaukee and Miami.

How did former Marquette head coach Tom Crean, who’s now at Indiana University, help prepare you to become a pro player? What lessons did you learn from him?

Coach Crean laid the foundation of becoming a man. He was very hard on us as players, but we reaped the benefits of the hard work he asked of us. He taught us all how to be smart players . He is a guard coach, so he made sure you understood the game as a coach because you are an extension of the coach while you on the court as a guard. Who I am as a player comes from the fundamentals he instilled in me my four years (2002-06) there.

Thinking back to your time at Marquette, what are some favorite memories there as a basketball player?

My best moment at Marquette obviously is the Final Four year my freshman year. We were a band of brothers; everyone took pride in helping the team win in any aspect of the game. I remember my freshman year against Holy Cross in the first round of the (NCAA) tournament. D-Wade was struggling and Travis Diener was carrying us and coach put me in the game and I made two huge 3s in the game to help us sneak past Holy Cross. Little things about that year like that always makes me smile.

How would you compared the overall quality of competition and teams — top to bottom — in the British Basketball League and the bj-league?

It’s very hard to compare the leagues because you play so many games here and all games are back to back and you don’t even get 24 hours in between games. You have to be mentally strong to get through this league and be effective. I have the utmost respect for every player in this league.

If you were given a magic wand and a chance to change one thing for the better about the bj-league, what would be at the top of your list?

The one thing I would change for the better is having at least 24 hours in between games, so players can fully recover and it can prevent injuries as well.

Using the vocabulary of a TV or radio analyst, how would you describe yourself in terms of basketball characteristics?

Describing myself in basketball terms, I’ll say leader. Some will say shooter or scorer, but I enjoy all the little things about the game now, so leader.

Have you had the opportunity to attend other Japanese pro sporting events, such as sumo, baseball or soccer? And if so, how was it?

I haven’t seen any other professional sports yet here in Japan, but will like to. I hear sumo was invented in Nara.

What hobbies and leisure activities do you enjoy away from basketball in Japan?

The things I do in my down time is going to all the great temples around Nara and the (Nara) Deer Park as well.

Which players you’ve competed with or against this season have impressed you the most?

Wendell White and Edwin Ubiles. Both players have a great knack of scoring in different ways. I admire how smooth their games are and how easy the game comes to them.

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Editor’s note: Archived stories in this long-running interview series can be found here: