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Japanese Player Aims for a Spot in the NBA (December 10, 2003)

Tabuse Yuta
Tabuse brings the ball up the court. (Jiji)
Twenty-three-year-old Tabuse Yuta is aiming to become the first Japanese player to make it to the National Basketball Association. Tabuse, a 173-centimeter point guard, took part in the training camp of the Denver Nuggets in September and became the first Japanese player ever to appear in an NBA exhibition game. Though he was released by the Nuggets on October 23 before the regular season got underway, Tabuse has remained in the United States to pursue his dream.

Preseason Debut
In May 2003 Tabuse left Toyota Alvark, the Toyota Motor Co. team in the Japanese Basketball League, and headed to America with the goal of entering the NBA. He signed a contract with the Nuggets at the end of September. The team had already decided which players would appear at the beginning of the season, however, so Tabuse knew that, barring an injury to another player, he would be cut before the regular season. But he got a chance to play; he appeared in a preseason game on October 9, racking up an impressive line of 7 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds in just 11 minutes, showing off his skilful passing and deft ball-control skills. Tabuse subsequently appeared in two more preseason games.

As the situation with the Nuggets' roster did not change, Tabuse was let go at the end of the preseason. Denver Nuggets General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe lamented having to waive Tabuse because of the number of players, explaining, "I really liked the way Yuta played. If there was a way to keep him I would." Tabuse himself took a positive attitude, saying, "This reaffirmed my desire to become an NBA player." On November 7 Tabuse announced his decision to sign with the Long Beach Jam of the American Basketball Association, a minor league (not to be confused with the original American Basketball Association, which lasted from 1967 to 1976). Tabuse intends to keep working for another chance to get into the NBA. If he performs well enough in the ABA and attracts interest, it would be possible for him to rejoin the NBA in the middle of the season.

The NBA is currently working to expand its presence overseas, and the league has seen an influx of talented foreign players over the past several years. While there are some tall players from China, notably the 226-centimeter center Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets, there are as yet no Asians playing the position of point guard, which requires quickness and on-court leadership. The fact that Tabuse is only 173 centimeters tall makes his attempt to enter a league dominated by much taller athletes all the more impressive.

Star of Japanese Basketball
Tabuse has been a star in the world of Japanese basketball ever since his youth. He attended Akita Prefecture's Noshiro Technical High School, which is famous for basketball, appearing as a regular member of the school's team right from his first year. Tabuse led the school to the three major titles of Japanese high school basketball – the Interscholastic Athletic Meet, the National Athletic Meet, and the All-Japan High School Championship – in three consecutive years. In 1999 Tabuse went to Brigham Young University Hawaii as an international student and played college basketball. After returning to Japan in 2002, he joined Toyota Alvark of the Japanese Basketball Super League, and he captured rookie-of-the-year honors while leading his team to second place. Tabuse's exciting style of play drew many fans to the arenas, and he became the biggest star in the world of Japanese basketball.

Greater numbers of Japanese soccer and baseball players have been heading overseas in recent years, but Tabuse's attempt to break into a sport in which size is so important is especially notable. Tabuse is also just 23 years old, and though he has not yet succeeded in making his dream a reality, he still has time to do so. Many Japanese fans hope to see Tabuse running the floor in an NBA uniform soon.

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Related Web Sites
National Basketball Association
Noshiro Technical High School (Japanese only)

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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