Basketball

Sharpshooter Keisei Tominaga ready to mess with Texas

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Keisei Tominaga had always been bound for the United States; the only thing that remained uncertain was where he would end up.

The 18-year-old’s destination is finally set for the Lone Star State.

Ranger College announced recently that the Japanese player had committed to the public community college located in Ranger, Texas.

One of the major reasons Tominaga wanted to compete on American soil is to maximize the chances of achieving his ultimate goal: reaching the NBA.

“I’ll be put in an environment where the level of the game will be higher,” Tominaga said at a promotional event organized by Under Armour that also included Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry on Saturday in Tokyo. “I don’t think I will be able to compete on par (with the Americans) from the very beginning. But I would like to keep working hard every day and hopefully, I’ll be an NBA player.”

The 185-cm guard, a phenomenal sharpshooter who will attend the college on a full scholarship, also said he expects to get good coaching from Ranger head coach Billy Gillispie. The 59-year-old previously held same position at the University of Kentucky, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Hiroyuki Tominaga, Keisei’s father and a former center for Japan’s national team, said that the presence of a Japanese athletic trainer at the school was a key factor in choosing the school.

“Keisei is an elite-level shooter and an outstanding scorer well,” Gillispie said of Tominaga, who crushed other players with an average of 39.8 points at last year’s Winter Cup, in an email to The Japan Times. “I think that he should be able to have the most success early as an offensive player because he has always excelled at every one of his previous stops. I have no doubt that the finished product will be something.

“The obvious challenges will be his age, his adjustment period to a new culture, and the speed and the strength of the players he will be playing against.”

During Saturday’s event, Tominaga and Hiroshima Minami High School forward Keijiro Mitani had a chance to sit down with three-time NBA champion Curry and ask him questions.

Tominaga asked what Curry would do when he faced tougher competition at a higher level in his basketball career. Curry responded by saying it would benefit a player to “challenge yourself and get outside of the comfort zone a little bit.”

“But the one thing that you have to maintain is just your belief, your self-confidence,” said the two-time NBA MVP, who Tominaga has idolized. “That’s your work ethic, your attitude, and just focus on getting better.

“There’s going to be a lot of things that can distract you, whether it’s a coach not playing you enough minutes, or injuries, or just the circus that’s around the game of basketball, especially in America. So just focus on what you can control and it’ll be alright.”

The Ranger College basketball team, of the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, finished the 2018-19 campaign as the National Junior College Athletic Association runner-up after posting a 31-4 record during the season.

Tominaga, a native of Aichi Prefecture, hopes to transfer to an NCAA Division I school and eventually realize his NBA aspirations.

Tominaga, who graduated from Sakuragaoka Gakuen High School in March, is scheduled to take off for Texas sometime in August in order to prepare for the school’s fall semester.

Meanwhile, Curry, who is visiting Japan for the third straight year, wants to return to the East Asian nation next year as well — as part of Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I hope so,” Curry said, when asked by Mitani if he wants to compete at the Summer Games. “That’s a plan of mine, a goal of mine. I’ve never played in the Olympics. But to have it here in Tokyo, it’s a place now I’ve been three times. It’ll be an amazing honor for sure. I’ll do everything in my power to get back here next July.”