One Man’s Journey to the NBA

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Takuya Kawamura, who played for the Tochigi Brex in the Japan Basketball League last season, has spent the past three and a half months working out in the United States with his eye on making the NBA. (Photos by JORDAN IKEDA/Rafu Shimpo)

Takuya Kawamura, who played for the Tochigi Brex in the Japan Basketball League last season, has spent the past three and a half months working out in the United States with his eye on making the NBA. (Photos by JORDAN IKEDA/Rafu Shimpo)

By JORDAN IKEDA
RAFU SPORTS EDITOR

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LAS VEGAS.—Las Vegas is a place where people down on their luck can, with a roll of the dice, the draw of a card or the pull of a lever (it’s really pushing a button now), instantly turn that luck around. Of course, the reverse is just as true for those who come rolling in riding a wave of success, regardless of how modest or excessive, and instantly find themselves out of favor with that fickle lady.

Over the past three months, Takuya Kawamura has seen both sides of luck’s coin. The last time we spoke to Kawamura, whom everybody in the States calls TK (because it’s easier on American tongues), everything seemed to be headed in the right direction. He was rolling seven/elevens (check out http://rafu. com/news/?p=650 for back story on Kawamura’s journey).

He had hooked up with a great agency, BDA Sports, the same agency that brought Yao Ming to the NBA. He had a great showing in a Cleveland camp he attended in May. He then flew out to Treviso, Italy to take part in Eurocamp where he successfully showed off his skills for the various teams and scouts that attended, so much so, a couple of European teams even inquired with offers. After Eurocamp, his next stop was Phoenix, where he worked out with the Suns Summer League squad.

“When we started this process, we selected the Suns because we thought that would be the best situation,” said Scott Kaijiya, Kawamura’s agent. “TK had been working with Goran (Dragic), the Suns Summer League starting point guard [and fellow BDA client], for the past two weeks prior to going to the Suns camp. He went to Suns camp and did fine. There were only ten guys there. We thought okay, this is the Summer League team.”

Then he got to Vegas and things changed. For the gamblers out there, when playing anything in Vegas, that bust card is always lurking in the background. Kawamura had trouble getting clearance by FIBA to participate in the Summer League games due to the contract he still has with his Japan Basketball League team, the Tochigi Brex. By the time he got the okay to play, Summer League was halfway over and the Suns had brought in five other players, four of which were guards, TK’s position.

Kawamura has a sweet shot, but needs to get stronger if he hopes to make the NBA.

Kawamura has a sweet shot, but needs to get stronger if he hopes to make the NBA.

Kawamura was only able to get a few minutes of Summer League action, but in that limited time was able to experience the speed of the game, the physicality that is so much different from Japanese ball. He also got an up close look at DeMar DeRozan, the ninth overall pick in this year’s NBA draft.

“He scored the most during the game,” Kawamura told the Rafu Shimpo through a translator, “but I think I was able to defend him pretty well in those four minutes. I didn’t let him score. It was a short time, but I think I accomplished what I planned to do, so that’s great. But then, I wish I could have played longer.”

“I was impressed with what I saw,” said Dan Majerle, former Suns great and current assistant coach who coached the Suns Summer League team. “His ability to know how to play the game.

He’s a good kid, can really shoot it. Defensively, he was good, very aware. Very knowledgeable about the game.“

Of course, anyone familiar with “Thunder” Dan’s game remembers his penchant for hard-nosed, gritty defense and his uncanny ability to light it up from the outside.

“People have been telling me that we have a similar style,” said Kawamura. “He gave me a lot of advice. It’s encouraging to know that my style will work in NBA, at a very high level. He told me to focus on my task.”

“He’s a great shooter,” Steve Kerr said of Kawamura during Phoenix’s Summer League game against the NBDL Select squad.

“We like what we saw. We had some people who advised us to give him a look. So we brought him over to Phoenix for a couple of days. It was worth giving him a chance. We knew he wasn’t good enough to make our roster in the fall, but we just wanted to get a look at him.”

Sure, skill, hard work, dedication, patience and perseverance all set the groundwork for who makes it and who doesn’t, but when it comes to figuring out the rosters and rotations for the 22 teams that were assembled for the 10-day event in Las Vegas, who gets minutes, who gets sent home, many times, in many ways, luck plays the biggest factor.

“I feel impatient, but at the same time, I think this is the kind of hardship I have to experience in order to play in the NBA,” Kawamura said. “I was shocked and disappointed, but I’ve seen Tabuse going through similar situations. I’m glad that I was able to experience it and learn a lesson. Right now, I’m trying to stay positive.”

As for the future, there is a possibility Kawamura can still make an NBA squad. Prior to Vegas, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors had shown interest. And there’s always the possibility of playing in Europe for a year, playing against elite competition and getting looked at by scouts.

“I think that’s a good option for me,” he said. “No matter how I would go about it, my ultimate goal is to play in the NBA. If I can’t do that from Japan, then of course, I would go to Europe and hone my skills there for a while.”

Kawamura’s journey to the NBA might have come up cherry, cherry, grape for the moment, but he knows what he has to do and is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to see it happen.

Luck has a funny way about. One minute you’re down.

And then the next minute…

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—Additional reporting by Nao Gunji

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