Yokohama – Several months after he made his sensational B. League debut, teenage phenom Yuki Kawamura is back in the league — in a different jersey.
The 19-year-old has signed with the Yokohama B-Corsairs under the league’s specially designated player rule, meaning he will continue to retain his amateur status. He can play up to three months under the rule and will be eligible to make his B-Corsairs debut in a two-game series against the Shimane Susanoo Magic this weekend in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture.
His home debut will likely be in a two-game series against the Shiga Lakestars at Yokohama International Swimming Pool from Jan. 2-3.
“Our senior players have welcomed me with open arms,” the 172-cm point guard said during an introductory news conference in Yokohama on Tuesday.
Kawamura enrolled at Tokai University this spring and was a part of the Seagulls squad that won the All-Japan Intercollegiate Basketball Championship earlier this month.
Admitting he received interest from several other clubs, Kawamura hinted that he chose the B-Corsairs, who have posted a 7-16 record in the 2020-21 season, in order to avoid neglecting his academic duties at Tokai, which is located in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Last year, Kawamura sent a shock wave through the entire league as a member of the San-en NeoPhoenix. The Yamaguchi Prefecture native joined the Aichi Prefecture-based team a month after he navigated his Fukuoka Daiichi High School team to a second consecutive title at the All-Japan High School Tournament in late December.
Stepping onto the court as the youngest-ever player to compete in the B. League at 18 years, eight months and 23 days, Kawamura — still a high school student at the time — quickly came through for the NeoPhoenix, capitalizing on his blazing speed and exceptional court vision.
He wound up playing in 11 contests with seven starts, averaging 12.6 points, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals, earning a selection to the league’s all-rookie team for the 2019-20 season.
Despite that success, Kawamura insisted that his latest stint with Yokohama would be nothing but “another challenge” on the path to becoming one of the best players that the country has ever seen.
“I’ve put my three years in high school behind me and have had so many issues,” Kawamura said. “And to overcome them, I enrolled at the university and now this will be another challenge. I would like to contribute to the team earning as many wins as it can.”
His time with the NeoPhoenix showed that Kawamura needed to improve on his physicality in order to play in the professional ranks. But he’s bulked up thanks to Tokai’s advanced strength and conditioning program.
“Playing for San-en in the B. League as a specially designated player last year, I found out the lack of my physicality and muscle volume were clear issues,” said Kawamura, who stated that he’s gained about two to three kilograms since he graduated from high school. “So I’ve worked hard on my physical training this past year.”
Meanwhile, B-Corsairs first-year head coach Kyle Milling said that he is impressed with Kawamura’s maturity level and high basketball IQ. But the American also tried to not place too much pressure on the youngster.
“We have had many games that were very close and were missing just a little bit to push ourselves over the top,” Milling said. “And as a coach, I’m not counting Yuki to win us games individually, and I know what I’m looking for is the little extra that I think Yuki can do to push us over the top.”
Just like when he played for the NeoPhoenix, Yokohama hopes the acquisition of the former Japan U-16 player will contribute to the team’s exposure.
“He drew a lot of attention through the media last year,” Tetsuya Ueda, B-Corsairs president and general manager, said of Kawamura, who cited star guards like Yuta Tabuse of the Utsunomiya Brex and Yuki Togashi of the Chiba Jets Funabashi as players he aspires to emulate. “He’s got an overwhelming value as a player, and that was another major reason why we pursued him.”
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