The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Gyno Pomare of the expansion Kanazawa Samuraiz is the subject of this week’s profile.
Ht: 203 cm
Wt: 110 kg
Hometown: Oceanside, California
College: University of San Diego
Noteworthy: Pomare is averaging 13.8 points and just over 10.0 rebounds to date for the first-year franchise, which is 12-14 at the season’s midway point. He had a season-high 27 points on Sunday. He leads the Samuraiz in rebounds, steals and blocks. . . . In 2009, he left USD as the school’s all-time leading scorer (1,725 points). He’s currently No. 3 behind Brandon Johnson (1,790; 2005-10) and Johnny Dee (2,046; 2011-15). He’s the second-leading rebounder (864) in the school’s record book, trailing only Gus Magee (1,000; 1966-70). . . . In the 2008 NCAA Men’s Tournament, Pomare’s team, a No. 13 seed, shocked fourth-seeded UConn, 70-69, in the first round. He had a game-high 22 points.
Pomare has played for six bj-league teams, starting with the Sendai 89ers (2009-10). After a stint in Argentina following his season with Sendai, the athletic forward had one-year stints with the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, Kyoto Hannaryz, Iwate Big Bulls and Aomori Wat’s before joining Kanazawa.
What were your expectations for the team entering the season? And have those expectations changed because the team has played half the season?
To be honest, with the guys that they brought in, the Japanese guys … (we) were a really good team from the beginning. Right now our record doesn’t show how good we really are. There’s a lot of games that we gave away, but I think, in time, we are going to kick in and get better, and I think we’re going to be a playoff team and I think we’re going to go further than just the first round of the playoffs — I think the second round or more.
I know first-year franchise teams are usually bad and don’t usually do so well, but I think this team should be able to (finish) above. 500 and I think we’ll be able to make some noise in the playoffs for sure.
What did Kanazawa’s 89-59 win over the Niigata Albirex BB on Dec. 6 to earn a series split say about your team?
That first game (a 73-71 Albirex triumph), we should have won also. It can be frustrating because we know we can win these (close) games . . . and we could be one of the top teams in the league right now.
What are Samuraiz bench boss Yukinori Suzuki’s chief strengths as a head coach?
He’s a very smart coach. I really like him a lot. I knew about him. I know his record (82-126 over the four previous seasons with the Oita HeatDevils) doesn’t really show how good his teams are. Because I know his team at Oita was really good until they got broken up. He had the right players (before the team gutted its roster and formed a new operating company due to its financial woes in 2013). But here, our record doesn’t really show how good we really are because I came in and Andrew (Fitzgerald) literally a week before we started playing, or something like that. We didn’t have a lot of time to gel.
Coach Suzuki has done a really good job of gelling with us and setting us up. He’s really smart with giving us plays to get our shots and also in preparation before the game he knows the other team and scouts the other team. He knows their plays. . . . He knows what he’s doing.
He has us prepared every week against teams.
Is his strong suit more on offense or defense?
I think he’s a little bit of both. I think on offense he tries to find us ways to get the bucket to score. Especially if our offense is not working, he’ll call a play during a timeout.
But also when we are scouting, he’ll have what he wants us to do and then he’ll ask our input also if we think we should do something else — like if we should rotate or not rotate or double or not double. . . . He’s very approachable. So he allows the communication to come from the players.
How have the fans and the media throughout Ishikawa Prefecture embraced the franchise in its inaugural season?
It’s been pretty positive. I think the word is getting out more about us, and the fans come out and support us, which is nice. We’ve been playing hard for them and I think they are showing their appreciation by coming out (to the games).
Among the team’s Japanese players, what has impressed you most about Masato Tsukino, Yuji Ide, Tsubasa Yonamine, among others?
Well, Masa for sure, he’s great on offense and he’s great on defense. He does both. That’s what I really like about him a lot. He’s taken on a role of being more of a leader on the team.
He and Tsubasa are the two captains and they are really gearing us up and getting us ready for the games keeping us focused during the practices so we’re able to improve. . . .
I know that Ide’s a scorer. He does that and he’s been doing that here with us. I think he’s finding his groove a little bit more now, and he seems a little bit more comfortable now in getting it done.
How would you assess the play of fellow imports Andrew Fitzgerald, a power forward/center, and Marshall Brown, a small forward?
Marshall is scoring (12.8 ppg) and doing well on defense, rebounding the ball really well (7.6) for his position.
(About Andrew), I’m very happy with his scoring (team-best 17.3) . . . and now he’s really doing more. He’s rebounding well for us.
Did the Samuraiz’s five-game winning streak that started in October and carried over into November increase your team’s confidence and overall self-belief?
Yes, for sure, just because we were starting to play well and play well together. . . . We are getting to know each other and learn how to play with one another on the team on the court, and we are growing as team. And I just know, I can foresee the future, as long as we’re still playing together in the future, we are going to be really good toward the end.
Who are two or three opposing players, past or present, who have given you the greatest challenge at both ends of the court during your years in Japan?
Shimane (forward) Josh Davis, the league’s leading rebounder (15.4 per game), he’s a great rebounder, and an offensive rebounder as well and that really bothered me, because he got a lot of second-chance points and that’s the reason why we lost two games (on Oct. 10 and 11). . . .
Another person that gave me a lot of trouble is (Hamamatsu’s) Reggie Warren. I had a bad weekend against him (on Oct. 17 and 18, a combined 11 rebounds in two losses).
He definitely doesn’t give up any easy rebounds on the defensive end. He really controls that. He’s pretty strong. I wasn’t able to play as well as I wanted to against him. . . . He’s a tough defender and he’s good on offense as well. He draws a lot of fouls.
What do you consider your best skill on the court?
For me, that would be rebounding for sure. I try to pride myself on that, especially on the defensive end. I want to try to get all the rebounds I can, because it’s stopping the other team from getting an opportunity to score. It bothers me a lot if they get a lot of offensive rebounds.
Rebounding is, for sure, probably my biggest thing that I do and maybe blocking some shots with our help-side defense — not really necessarily blocking some shots, but being there to help our defense and making it difficult for the offense to get easy baskets.
Was rebounding the skill that attracted the attention of colleges and also helped you become a pro?
When I was younger, I didn’t really think about rebounding like that, although rebounding is my thing that I need to do, and it probably did carry over to (college). . . . Now that I’m older, I try to be at least in the top 10.
I’m definitely going to try to make sure I’m in the top 10 in rebounding.
What are your favorite memories from your time as a college player — games or moments that top the list?
For sure, it would be when we went to the NCAA Tournament for the 2007-08 season and we beat UConn by one point. Just that entire experience. To get to the tournament, we had to win the WCC (West Coast Conference); we hosted the WCC Tournament that year. That was amazing. We beat St. Mary’s and Gonzaga in the tournament, and having that experience as part of it and then the whole experience with the NCAA, the Selection Sunday, the charter flight was the first time we ever did that. The whole police escort coming to the game. . . . Winning the game against UConn, of all my basketball (experiences) that was the thing that was most memorable. I’ve won a championship in Argentina in the second division, I’ve played overseas, all over the world, in Japan, (but that was) my single-most greatest memory. . .
We busted a lot of people’s (tournament) brackets that day.
How would you describe Gyno Pomare the basketball player, using the words of a TV analyst sitting courtside?
I think there’s a misconception that I don’t work hard, that I’m a laid-back guy. I do talk a lot on the court, but I’m not rah-rah, scream and yell. I do work hard. But I do work hard in practice and I work hard in the offseason to stay in shape. I’m just a laid-back guy who plays really hard and rebounds the ball well and is willing to work hard in transition to get the bucket.
Do you watch a lot of NBA games to study the individual play of centers and forwards? And if so, who are a few you closely follow?
Sometimes I do. Paul Millsap for the Atlanta Hawks, he’s a guy that I kind of want to be like. . . . He does it inside and out and his outside game now . . . he can drive to the basket and he can shoot 3s. I don’t really shoot 3s but I’ve tried to work on it over the last couple summers. But he’s one guy I look at and I kind of see that I can play like him.