Veteran Yusuke Okada is known as one of the most versatile players in the B. League.
But that does not just refer to his performance on the court. Okada is known for what he does off of it, too.
Okada, a former Japan men’s national team player, has a certificate as a public accountant in addition to a reputation as an entrepreneur, having run a basketball-themed bar and been an owner of Tokyo Dime, a professional 3×3 team.
At the end of the day, however, nothing excites the 35-year-old more than playing basketball.
Okada signed with the second division’s Earthfriends Tokyo Z this summer for the 2020-21 season. Speaking at an online news conference, he displayed his gratitude for the brand-new challenge.
“I know I’m being asked to help the team both on and off the court,” Okada said. “I would like to share my experience and knowledge that I’ve earned through my longtime career with everyone, including the team and front-office staff.”
The Earthfriends are the sixth club that Okada has competed for at the professional level. The Aoyama Gakuin University alum started his career with the powerhouse Toyota Alvark, who are now known as the Alvark Tokyo.
The Tokyo native said that his motivation is higher than it’s been in the past few years because he genuinely feels that the team expects him to be one of its core players as it looks to reach the next level.
Last year, when he was with the first-division Kyoto Hannaryz, Okada played in every game yet did not record a single start. In the previous three seasons, he had never been omitted from a starting lineup.
“It’s simply because I have more responsibility to help this team out,” Okada replied when asked about his motivation to join the Earthfriends, who finished last in the Central Conference with a 12-35 record last season. “I was one of the first options in the first two years or so for the Hannaryz, but from the third year on, there was a competitive import player (at my position) and I wasn’t used as much anymore.
“But now for the Earthfriends, I think I will be asked to help lead the team to win like I was doing in the first couple of years for Kyoto, or even when I was younger for the Alvark. So I feel like I’ve got to do it.”
Earthfriends president Katsuyuki Yamano said that his team, which was established in 2014, still has rooms to learn as a professional team. He hopes Okada will bring what he has accumulated both on and off the floor over the last 15 years to the young team, whose main home is the Ota City General Gymnasium.
“Our history is still young going into our seventh year, but there’s still tons of things that we don’t know, there’s things we need to learn in the front office,” Yamano said. “We haven’t competed in the playoffs since the B. League began and we wonder what it’s like to be in the playoffs.
“Okada’s certainly gained a lot of experience and we hope for him to teach us things we don’t know and what we need to improve on so that more people like the team. Otherwise, we are not going to give our fans the best product, and we want him to tell us how to make that happen without hesitation.”
While he stressed that his team expects Okada to be a player first and foremost, Yamano will be counting on the 185-cm player to contribute to their further success as a pro sports club.
“Okada’s been a businessperson himself,” Yamano said. “So I sort of see him from the point of view of a business partner.”