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Kawasaki’s Shinoyama expanding all-around game at point guard

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Point guard is arguably the most demanding position in basketball because you are asked to do multiple tasks and lead your team, fully using your brain.

Kawasaki Brave Thunders floor leader Ryusei Shinoyama is a good example, with the challenges of his position always in the spotlight.

The 28-year-old is one of the star players for the Central Division club along with the league’s scoring leader Nick Fazekas and sharpshooter Naoto Tsuji.

But the volumes of credit that Shinoyama gets from head coach Takuya Kita is not as much as it is for the other two because Kita wants him to make big contributions, not just delivering victories.

That was especially the case earlier in his top-league career. Kita was often a little tough on the starting point guard in regard to how he guided his team as the floor leader.

“Kita-san is the type of coach who really sticks to details,” Shinoyama said after the team’s practice on Thursday. “And I was thinking a little too much back in those days.”

The point guard position requires experience, by going through so many different situations in games and overcoming ups and downs.

Now in his sixth year as a top-league player, Shinoyama has firmly made big progress and it’s made Kita less harsh on him lately.

“I think he leads the team better now,” said the 44-year-old Kita, who used to be a star shooting guard for the Brave Thunders. “He’s getting better year in and year out.”

The inauguration of the B. League this year has been huge for all players as the competition level has risen and the spotlight it collects is brighter.

But that’s not the sole reason that Shinoyama has become a different player. As he’s been selected for the provisional men’s national team squad for the monthly developmental training camps, Shinoyama has upgraded his skills and changed his mindset as an individual player with different coaching than what he receives at his club.

What’s more, Shinoyama’s awareness of scoring on his own is noticeably higher. Through Friday, the lefty is averaging 7.4 points while playing in all 56 games, a 3.3 point-per-game increase from last season in the NBL.

“In order to firmly secure my spot (on the national team), it’s a big factor for me to have better numbers so I can showcase my presence,” said the Kanagawa Prefecture native, who’s averaging 3.3 assists per game.

But Shinoyama doesn’t think that his statistical contributions are enough. He added that Luka Pavicevic, the interim head coach for the Japan men’s national team, told him that it doesn’t matter if there are go-to scorers on the same team in Fazekas and Tsuji, and that he would still need to average at least 10 points.

So Shinoyama has become more aggressive this year and he thinks that it actually helps the team because passing is not the only way that he should lead the team.

“By going to take shots on my own, I think that it reduces the burdens for Nick and Tsuji and in a sense I’m controlling the team by doing so,” said Shinoyama, who scored a season-high 25 points in a contest against the Toyama Grouses on Feb. 22. “So I’ve been able to do that, not thinking too much.”

The Brave Thunders (now 46-10 after a victory on Friday night over the Yokohama B-Corsairs), who captured the NBL championship last year, went 2-2 over the past two weekends, and with just handful games left before getting in the postseason, Shinoyama said that Kawasaki has to regroup, doing what it is supposed to do.

Asked about those recent games, Kita was again harsh on Shinoyama. After the Brave Thunders dropped the second of a two-game series against the Sunrockers Shibuya last weekend, the bench boss said that Shinoyama was over-aggressive and “needed other players around him to touch the ball more.”

Shinoyama said: “We need to play with more concentration and become one, putting out more energy.”