Yokohama – Teenage sensation Yuki Kawamura has drawn a spotlight to the Yokohama B-Corsairs, a club that has rarely been the subject of attention from B. League fans.
The 19-year-old signed with Yokohama on a specially designated amateur player contract late last month, raising the profile of a team with a lackluster 10-17 record and earning comparisons to generational talents such as Yuta Tabuse of the Utusnomiya Brex and Yuki Togashi of the Chiba Jets Funabashi.
Even someone unfamiliar with Kawamura’s play will quickly recognize his rare ability, including his speed and agility on the court. But those are only some of the attributes that make him special as a point guard.
The Tokai University freshman doesn’t necessary rack up points — instead he manages the team as a floor general and leads his squad to victory.
Kawamura’s past achievements speak for themselves. He led his Fukuoka Daiichi to consecutive Winter Cup national high school championships in 2018 and ’19 and guided Tokai to the Inter-Collegiate Championship as a backup point guard last month. Last season he made his B. League debut with the San-en NeoPhoenix under the same special designation.
“To me, it’s about what you have to do in order to play without turnovers, and I feel like I’ve got to be better going forward,” Kawamura said after his Jan. 2 home debut at Yokohama International Swimming Pool where the B-Corsairs defeated the Shiga Lakestars 83-78. “The timings of my shots wasn’t bad, but I chose to pass to my teammates rather than attempting to take difficult shots — that was where I could give myself credit.”
In the game, the 19-year-old was scoreless but came up with a season-high seven assists and no turnovers off the bench. He has averaged five points, four assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in four games he has played so far since his B-Corsairs debut.
Yokohama has gone 3-1 in that span but Kawamura took responsibility for the sole defeat, a 68-67 loss to the Shimane Susanoo Magic.
“I made a costly turnover (in the loss) against Shimane and made a passing mistake that you are not supposed to make as a point guard,” he said. “That was a game we should have won and I feel responsible for that as a point guard.”
Yokohama head coach Kyle Milling, saying he was impressed by Kawamura’s maturity, admitted that the teenager was still adjusting to the team and that his development would take some time.
But Milling wants to take as much pressure as possible off Kawamura’s shoulders, saying he does not want to put the player in situations where he feels he needs to carry the team. In fact, the first-year American coach says he encourages young players to learn from errors they make on the court.
“I think the most important thing for any young player is to feel comfortable and confident,” said Milling, who has previously had coaching stints in the French professional league. “Young players will always make mistakes, and I tell them that it’s normal for young players to make mistakes. The whole goal is for them to make them (and learn from them).”
Kawamura’s arrival has given the B-Corsairs an additional offensive weapon, with his dribbling and passing skills allowing the team to execute pick-and-rolls more efficiently. The combination of Kawamura and Czech Patrik Auda could be a signature two-man show for the team going forward.
“Patrik’s strength is in a pick-and-roll game. He’s been with the Czech national team and in Europe, he’s played with many high-level point guards and his game is pick-and-rolls setting the screen and finding the space and doing it,” Milling said.
“And from the first day of practice when Yuki joined the team, I saw the timing of the passes and the timing of Patrik rolling or opening and finding the right spot. It was very easy for Yuki and Patrik (to build) the combination. So from the first day already, I know their relationship on the court can only grow and get better. So that’s why many times I tried to put them both on the court at the same time to help them both make each other better.”
But Kawamura, whose stint with Yokohama will only last until the end of March due to the restrictions of his contract, is not the type of player who is content to work well with only one or two teammates.
“Patrik can adjust to my speed while he dives (toward the rim) and does short rolls with me,” he said. “But I want to play well with other players like Robert (Carter) and Reginald (Becton), too, so I want to keep doing my best going forward.”
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