TAIPEI – National team debutant Ryan Rossiter and sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru provided stellar performances in Monday’s 96-57 win over Taiwan, and perhaps showcased new dimensions for the Akatsuki Five during the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifier.
Rossiter, who become a naturalized citizen in December, racked up 17 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists — all game-highs — in his national team debut at Taipei Heping Basketball Gymnasium.
Kanamaru, who represented his homeland for the first time in six years, made three 3-pointers and matched Rossiter’s scoring total.
“Honestly, I was a little nervous before the game. It was my first game to play with these guys,” the 30-year-old Rossiter said after the game.
“Obviously, the practice’s kind of a different environment from a real game. It was my first game under this coaching staff. So I wanted to kind of play twice as hard as I can. If I make mistakes, I make mistakes. But I had a lot of fun and I thought it was a good first game overall.”
Taiwan was perhaps not an ideal opponent as some of the core players were absent and none of the members was taller than 2 meters. But it appeared both Rossiter and Kanamaru at least passed their first test putting on the Akatsuki Five jersey under head coach Julio Lamas.
During last year’s FIBA World Cup, where Japan posted an abysmal 0-5 record, big man Nick Fazekas took the sole naturalized spot, serving as a key scorer and rebounder.
Though Fazekas is perhaps a better scorer and shooter, the 206-cm Rossiter showed that he can contribute to the national team with his all-around skills, speed and phenomenal leadership.
Partially because Monday’s game was competed behind closed doors due to the fear of the coronavirus, Rossiter was heard loudly giving his teammates instructions.
“I’ve been in Japan for seven years. I know the demeanor and personalities of these guys,” said the 30-year-old Rossiter, who grabbed nine offensive rebounds. “And I try to lead on the court and off the court, to keep everyone together. I try to be a station to the coach’s voice on the court, so it kind of makes sure we are on the same page defensively and offensively.”
Charlie Parker, a former head coach for the Gunma Crane Thunders who was appointed Taiwan national team bench boss in 2018, said that Japan’s speed, defensive pressure on the ball and rotations are “all much better” with Rossiter.
“(I’ll) take nothing away from Nick. He’s a great player,” Parker said. “But Ryan fits more their style of running and pressuring and pushing up and down the court.”
Kanamaru’s 3-point shooting ability can help Japan’s perimeter attack, which was not a strong point at the FIBA World Cup against some of the world’s best teams in China.
On Monday, Kanamaru knocked down three shots from beyond the arc. The 30-year-old said that he could give himself “a passing grade” for making an impact with his 3-point shooting throughout the game.
Kanamaru played his first national team game since the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Afterward, the SeaHorses Mikawa shooting guard admitted he has growing aspirations to compete in the 2020 Summer Games.
“I’m here thinking this is a tournament that will give me a chance to play at the Olympics,” he said, referring to the Asia Cup qualifiers. “So I was playing as hard as I could no matter how many points of a lead we had today.”
Rossiter , who suits up for the Utsunomiya Brex, showed utmost respect for Kanamaru, saying he is happy to be on the same team, not playing against him as they do during the B. League season.
“To play with a shooter of that caliber’s amazing,” Rossiter said of Kanamaru. “He just spaces the court so well. And if I get an offensive rebound, or if I get the ball in the pocket, he’s my first look, (and) try to get him that 3-point shot. He’s such a talented offensive player.”