YOKOHAMA – With a somewhat unusual last name, it’s perhaps a little difficult for Raita Akaho to not be noticed that he’s from a distinguished basketball family.
Naturally, he carries high expectations and pressure on his shoulders.
But Akaho insists he is who he is, considering himself just another basketball player who attempts to establish success, doing so due to his ability on the court, not with his family name.
In fact, just several games into his rookie season with the Yokohama B-Corsairs, Akaho has already shown promising talent.
The Aoyama Gakuin University junior, who signed with the B. League Central Division club via the circuit’s early entry system last month, is averaging 7.0 points and 16.2 minutes while coming off the bench. He’s appeared in five games.
In Wednesday’s 93-75 home defeat to the Akita Northern Happinets, he canned two 3-pointers and scored a career-high 16 points. Late in the third quarter, he nailed a game-tying corner 3, exciting the fans.
“I’ve been coached in terms of my shooting, among other things, since I got here, and it’s been paying off,” Akaho said of his performance after the game at Yokohama International Swimming Pool.
Among current Japanese players, there are others who have had a family member compete at the professional level, including Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba.
But perhaps the 21-year-old Akaho stands out even more because his family is devoted to the sport, with multiple members having played at the highest level in Japan.
Akaho’s father, Makoto, competed for the powerhouse squads Sumitomo Metal Sparks and Matsushita Electric Trians in the Japan Basketball League. His older sister, Sakura, and twin sister Himawari, both, play for the Denso Iris of the Women’s Japan Basketball League.
Akaho’s mother, Kumiko, was a top player for Nippon Sport Science University, and his younger sister, Kanna, is a senior student-athlete for Ishikawa Prefecture’s Tsubata High School.
Akaho said that his father has given him some mental advice like saying he has nothing to lose as a rookie and “play more aggressively.” But he jokingly revealed that his sisters have not sent any messages to him since he began donning the Yokohama jersey.
Sakura and Himawari have both represented Japan in international competitions. Recently, Himawari played starting shooting guard for the Tom Hovasse-led national squad.
Admitting that he eventually wants to compete for the national team, Akaho said that he has nothing but admiration for his sisters. But that doesn’t mean he gets impatient about his own development.
“I’ve simply been amazed (that my sisters have played for the national team), and my twin sister has already played as a starter,” said Akaho, who has been called up to the provisional Under-22 national team. “But I am who I am and I only believe that I should do what I’m supposed to do, regardless of whoever else is doing it.”
Yokohama head coach Shogo Fukuda, whose squad is 9-28, the top division’s second-worst winning percentage, said that while the lanky youngster needs to improve, especially defensively, he has brought energy to the team.
“He’s come up with results and as far as he comes up with results, we want to continue to use him,” said Fukuda, who replaced fired B-Corsairs bench boss Tom Wisman earlier this month.
The 196-cm Akaho is tall for a shooting guard in Japan. But he sees himself as a point guard in the future, if not right away.
Akaho noted that he played the position at Ichiritsu Funabashi High School, but knows that he’s not at the level to handle he same role as a pro right now.
He thinks that it would give him an even better chance to compete for the Akatsuki Five if he can play point guard.
“Right now, I feel the most comfortable playing at the shooting guard and small forward positions,” the Chiba Prefecture native said. “But I’m willing to work at it so it would give me more chances.”