Basketball

Hard-working Tokashiki keeps sights set on ultimate goal

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Unlike for other players, the start of the 2016-17 Women’s Japan Basketball League season didn’t necessarily represent a fresh start for Jx-Eneos Sunflowers star player Ramu Tokashiki.

The 25-year-old forward/center has basically been on the court for nearly two entire years, having also played for the Japan women’s national team and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. So her body has taken a beating and she’s built up a lot of fatigue.

Tokashiki wrapped up her duties with the Storm on Sept. 21, when the team was eliminated from the playoffs by the Atlanta Dream. Her first game for the Sunflowers this season was on Oct. 7, against the Fujitsu Red Wave. In August, she played in five games for the national team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where Japan fell to the United States in the quarterfinals.

Tokashiki admitted that she wasn’t at her best and didn’t have a lot of gas in the tank when her WJBL season tipped off. But in the two-plus months since the beginning of the season, she’s recovered and has been able to help her team win as she always has.

“I dealt with some fatigue in the first few games,” Tokashiki said after a game at Funabashi Arena against the Chanson V-Magic earlier this month. “But I was given some rest because of my injured right leg and now I’ve gotten a lot better physically.”

Thanks to a roster rich in talent, the Sunflowers are having another dominant season so far. They were unbeaten with a 22-0 record in the 12-team league at the break for the annual single-elimination All-Japan Championship.

But Tokashiki is far from satisfied with her individual performance. She desperately wants to get better and become a more complete basketball player.

“I’ll never be satisfied with myself,” the 193-cm star said. “I feel I have a lot of room to grow. I don’t have to push myself too much, and we want to be better as a team around the All-Japan and later in the season. But I know that I and my team can develop a lot further.”

Tokashiki is leading the league with a field goal percentage of 61.5 and averaging 2.3 blocks per game, while she’s third with 18.1 points and 9.3 rebounds.

Tokashiki has likely played as many games as any other female basketball player in the world over the last two years.

But she doesn’t complain, because she has a big goal to strive for: winning a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“We only think of winning a medal at the Olympics,” the two-time FIBA Asia Championship MVP said. “We shot for it in Rio, but came up short. So the next one, we are going to work hard to make sure we can make it happen.”

Tokashiki insists that with that clear objective in mind, she can train harder and play ball all year.

“Because we have the Olympics (at home), I know I’ve got to get better and work harder,” she said. “So the Olympics is absolutely good motivation.”

Tokashiki added that she feels fortunate she has a chance to play at the Tokyo Games when she’s in her peak as player at age 29, and feels it will be a great opportunity to promote the game in Japan.

“I’m extremely happy that the Olympics will be held in our home country, and I feel I was born at the right time,” she smiled. “I want to repay those who have given us the opportunity. Also, I believe there are a lot of people who have never watched a basketball game, so I want to do well at the Olympics, winning a medal, so the game will spread out to those people as well.”

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