Yokohama – Teenage phenom Yuki Kawamura wrapped up his second stint in the B. League with the Yokohama B-Corsairs over the weekend and admitted this had been the most underwhelming season of his promising young career.
Speaking during a news conference following a 92-65 loss to the Kawasaki Brave Thunders on Saturday at Yokohama International Swimming Pool, the 19-year-old said it had been a “difficult season” and that he didn’t feel like he’d met his own high expectations.
The 172-cm point guard stunned Japanese basketball observers last year with his eye-opening performances for the San-en NeoPhoenix. He was able to compete in the B. League through the league’s early-entry system, which allows players under 22 years of age to spend up to three months with a team during a given season.
Kawamura had not even graduated from Fukuoka Daiichi High School when he joined the NeoPhoenix. He enrolled in Kanagawa Prefecture’s Tokai University last April, and used the same system to join the B-Corsairs. But Kawamura had a higher bar to clear in the 2020-21 season.
His numbers speak for themselves. Kawamura averaged 12.6 points on 38.9% shooting for San-en, but managed only 6.3 points and a 28.3 field-goal percentage in 15 games with Yokohama. He also averaged 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals this season. Yokohama was 6-9 with Kawamura on the roster and is 13-26 overall.
“When I played for San-en, I was still in high school and was playing as freely as I wanted,” said Kawamura, who made his only start of the season on Saturday against Kawasaki. “But I was not leading my team to wins, so I was planning to accumulate more experience and improve my basketball IQ at university before going into this second season (in the B. League).”
Opposing players had a better idea of how Kawamura played, he said, and guarded him more efficiently this year. He knows, however, he can’t turn back the clock and is determined to use this year’s frustrations as fuel, hoping to develop into a better player by the time he steps onto the floor again. “I struggled to make shots, struggled to contribute to the team.” he said.
Kawamura led Fukuoka Daiichi to back-to-back Winter Cup national championship titles in 2018 and 2019, and has been compared with star players such as Yuta Tabuse of the Utsunomiya Brex and Yuki Togashi of the Chiba Jets Funabashi due to his generational talent. “I have looked for ways to make things better. But I’m not sure how much I was able to contribute to the team and that’s been the biggest regret I’ve felt all year,” he said. “I would like to look back at this season as a turning point in my career.”
He has stressed that he wants to be an elite player who can represent the B. League and play on the national team. But having competed against some of the best in the league during the last two seasons, he acknowledges there’s a gap he has to overcome first.
“I’ve said that I want to be a Japan national team point guard in the future,” said Kawamura, who has played for the U-16 squad. “But I’ve felt through this year that players like Togashi and (Kawasaki’s Ryusei) Shinoyama consistently came up with results even though their opponents scouted them. I don’t think I can be a point guard for the national team if I can’t do that,” he conceded.
“So it was a season that made me realize how high a level the national team is at, and I take experiencing that as a positive,” Kawamura said. “That’s the biggest goal for me to get. I will go back to my university, overcome every issue and eventually achieve that.”
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