Japanese Player Aims for a Spot in the NBA (December 10, 2003)
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.
|Tabuse brings the ball up the court. (Jiji)
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
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
Related Web Sites
National Basketball Association
Noshiro Technical High School (Japanese only)
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