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Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011

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No easy task: Bob Hill, in his first season leading the Tokyo Apache, says it will take time to get acclimated to the strengths and weaknesses of his players and the bj-league's other 15 teams. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Apache's Hill still learning about his players


Staff writer

During last week's four-game homestand, Tokyo Apache coach Bob Hill was given his first opportunity to speak at length to reporters about his team's state of affairs and offer general thoughts on his approach to this season.

There were a wide assortment of topics discussed after Sunday's game, Tokyo's second victory of the week. Hill spoke candidly and used a bit of humor to get his points across, including the following:

• On the benefits of the just-completed work week at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2:

"It's funny how some players play better away from home and some play good at home and some it doesn't matter where they play. So this gave me an opportunity to see who maybe needs to be empowered a little bit more here in Tokyo. Kensuke (Tanaka) obviously doesn't need it. He was really good (season-high 18 points), but I'm still learning about the team, I'm still learning about the league and obviously I'm thrilled that we won today."

• On Shimane's Jeral Davis, a 216-cm big man, and his chances of playing in the NBA:

"It's hard to say. He's so thin (100 kg). He's very thin. But I had never seen him play, so yesterday I went out early to watch all of them shoot and I watched him take about 30 shots, and he probably made 25 of them.

"And (Robert) Swift came out and sat next to me and said, 'Boy, is that guy skinny.'

"And I said, 'Yeah, but he just made 25 out of 30 jump shots.' So I don't think Robert took him as seriously as he should have and he paid the price for it.

"We made a big deal out of it before the game and we paid another price. His lack of strength would be a big problem, but he's one of those guys that if he'd commit to this, he could make a really good living overseas, be it Japan or Europe.

"Everybody's looking for guys that can block shots. I mean, I've got a 7-1 (216-cm) center) and two 6-10 (208-cm) power forwards and let's see: How many did we block? We blocked three, Swift got two and they got six, and he got four. So thank you very much."

• On the way assists are recorded, especially in light of the Apache's 28 field goals and only seven official assists on Sunday:

"Assists are an interesting stat because it depends on where you live. If you live in Salt Lake City and John Stockton is your point guard, then a pass and five dribbles is an assist. And listen, I'm a big John Stockton fan.

"If you live in Tokyo, maybe you are not allowed to dribble. I don't know how the assist is defined is my point. So that's a can of worms."

• On the team's irregular schedule and the mental preparation for upcoming games despite players' fatigue:

"A lot of this is in their head. A lot of it is mental, because I'll give you two examples. Michael Jordan won an NBA championship one season. That summer, right away he won a gold medal in the Olympics. Came back the next season and won another NBA championship. He deserved to be tired.

"Two summers ago, I went to Guangdong, China, and ran the training camp and all the practices and helped the team get ready for the Chinese Olympics (the national sports festival).

"In the Chinese Olympics, the basketball team had to win eight out of nine games in nine days. We went to the first city and won five in a row, took the day off and won three in a row and we won the gold medal.

"Those two scenarios are much more difficult than what we are doing (40 games in four months)."

Back in action: After playing in only six games over the season's first three months, guard Takanori Goya appeared in three of the Apache's four contests last weekend.

The No. 1 pick of the Toyama Grouses in the 2006 bj-league draft, Goya is in his second season with Tokyo. He's made two starts and is averaging 4.2 ppg to date.

Goya, 27, has made a positive impression on Hill.

But injuries have limited Goya's availability for games and practices. That's why Hill is still learning how he wants to utilize the lanky 190-cm Goya's skill set.

"I'm just now getting a real feel for what he's capable of doing and where he fits in, and I like him a lot," the coach said. "He's got toughness. He works hard and he knows the plays, and he's got a lot of confidence. He just got healthy so I'm bringing him along, and he makes our bench better."

Familiar face: Former Apache coach Joe "Jellybean" Bryant was in town last week to lead his current team, the JBL's Rera Kamuy Hokkaido, at the All-Japan Basketball Championship at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, and he sat courtside with Tokyo owner Michael Lerch for his former team's home opener.

Hill welcomed the ex-Tokyo mentor's appearance at Thursday's game, considering it a nice gesture.

"I think it would add (to the atmosphere)," Hill said. "It's great that he was here. He did a great job while he was here and to come back and be a part of the crowd in the first game was very special.

"Anything that we can do to add to the enthusiasm and the excitement to have a great team in Tokyo, I'm all for it.

"If we can bring a real winner here to the basketball community of Tokyo, that's our goal. If Joe Bryant coming to the games helps, then I'm all for it."

Life in Tokyo: Away from the gym, Hill is quickly developing a fondness for Tokyo. In fact, he's found time to enjoy unique cultural aspects of the city.

"Tokyo is an amazing city," he said. "I'm anxious to go home and share my experiences with my friends about the cleanliness, the safety; the people are friendly, the history — I mean, it's unbelievable. It's just a fabulous city. . ."

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Do you have a story idea about the bj-league? Send an e-mail to: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp



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