Basketball / B. League

Jets star Yuki Togashi looks back on banner season, expresses excitement about future

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

For sure, the game the Chiba Jets Funabashi lost on Saturday was a big one.

Once again, they failed to win their last game, falling to the Alvark Tokyo in the B. League Championship final in Yokohama for the second straight season.

But star point guard Yuki Togashi, the league’s 2018-19 regular-season MVP, said there’s nothing his team should be ashamed of after posting a league-best 52-8 record.

“I realized we won 52 games in the regular season, another four in the Emperor’s Cup (single-elimination All-Japan Championship tournament; Chiba has won three straight titles in it) and another four in the Championship,” Togashi said after he received his first league MVP trophy at the B. League Award Show in Tokyo on Wednesday night.

“So overall, we won 60 in official games. I’m not sure if there will be another team that will win as many as we did this year. We are certainly disappointed that we did not win in the final. But reflecting on the year, we nearly had a flawless season. And we came up with it because all of us kept working extremely hard throughout the year.”

While he feels he has made strides as a point guard, guiding his team to new heights over the past few years, Togashi is thrilled to hear children say they want to emulate him in the future.

“What I often hear from them is that I’m playing (well) despite my size,” said Togashi, who is the shortest player in the B. League first division. “It’s kind of weird to say that myself, but being a 167-cm player, I do think I’m really small. But that’s why I may give a bigger impact than other players.”

What’s more, the Niigata Prefecture native has a chance to increase his influence as a member of the Japan men’s national team at this summer’s FIBA World Cup in China and next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Asked if he has a lot more to prove as a player after earning the MVP award and having a great season with the Jets, Togashi mentioned that the Tokyo Olympics is definitely the stage that he wants to compete on and shine.

He said that he isn’t actually thinking too far ahead in terms of his long-term career, insisting that the 2020 Summer Games are “the nearest dream as well as the foremost dream.”

“I haven’t been able to envision beyond that,” said Togashi, who has been the starting point guard for the national team. “It doesn’t mean I have to think of it right now. I just want to do the best I can until the Olympics.”

For Togashi, the NBA was his ultimate goal as a player, and he suited up for the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League (now called the NBA G League) during the 2014-15 season.

Togashi said he has not ruled out competing overseas in the future.

But right now, he wants to play in an environment in which he gets major minutes like he does with the Jets.

“When I was in the D-League and in my first year with Chiba (in the NBL, a predecessor of the B. League), I didn’t have a lot of playing minutes and I can’t forget that feeling,” said Togashi, an alum of Montrose Christian School in Maryland. “So as a professional player, I would like to (be) in an environment where I can earn playing time. Wherever I play, I want to play as the best player I can be, though.”

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