Basketball

WJBL star Tokashiki signs with WNBA’s Storm

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Two-time WJBL MVP Ramu Tokashiki has signed with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm her Japanese club, JX-Eneos Sunflowers, announced Monday.

The Sunflowers said that the 192-cm center/forward will head to the United States in early May for the Storm’s training camp. The 2015 WNBA season will tip off in June.

Tokashiki, who has an American grandfather, has been a dominant presence since she entered the WJBL in 2010. The 23-year-old earned the MVP award in her rookie season in the league and guided the Sunflowers to the championship in all four years she was on the team.

A regular national team player, Tokashiki led Team Japan to its first FIBA Asian Championship gold medal in 43 years in 2013. She led the tournament with 17.1 points and was selected as MVP.

Tokashiki will be the third Japanese to play in the WNBA. Mikiko Hagiwara played for the Sacramento Monarchs and Phoenix Mercury in the late 1990s and Yuko Oga was on the Mercury in 2008.

The Storm are two-time WNBA champions. Their star guard Sue Bird is an eight-time All-Star and was voted by the fans as one of the league’s top 15 best players of all time in 2011.

“I’m thrilled to play along with point guard Sue Bird, who’s one of the best in the States,” Tokashiki told the reporters in Tokyo on Monday. “In terms of the height, there are so many players who are as tall as I am, so I would like to emphasize my speed.”

Tokashiki, who was arguably the first player to dunk in a game in WJBL history, had said that she wanted a greater challenge on the court as she was dominant in Japan, and hinted that she wanted to play abroad.

She led the WJBL in scoring (18.0), rebounds (11.5), blocked shots (2.13) and field goal percentage (59.8) in the 2014-15 campaign.

Herb Brown, a former Japan women’s national team advisor, told The Japan Times last year that Tokashiki “should seek an opportunity to play in a foreign country.”

“She is highly skilled and athletic with unlimited potential,” said the former NBA coach, who currently serves as an assistant for the University of Portland men’s basketball team. “She can run, jump, and is really versatile. She responds to individual coaching and has a pretty good work ethic.

“I honestly also feel she is good enough to play in the WNBA.”