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Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011

ONE-ON-ONE WITH ...

Akita's Henry learning fine points from Hasegawa


Staff writer

The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Sek Henry of the Akita Northern Happinets is the subject of this week's profile.

News photo
Soaring to new heights: Akita Northern Happinets point guard Sek Henry, a first-year pro, is the bj-league's fifth-leading scorer. AKITA NORTHERN HAPPINETS / BJ-LEAGUE

Position: Guard; Age: 23

Ht: 193 cm; Wt: 90 kg

Hometown: Los Angeles

College: Nebraska

Noteworthy: Henry, a rookie, leads the expansion Happinets in scoring (18.7, No. 5 in the league), assists (4.6, tied for fourth-best) and steals (43). He's the team's third-leading rebounder (170 boards) and has started 29 games.

He scored a season-high 31 points on Dec. 26. He had five straight 20-point games from Oct. 24 to Nov. 7. . .

Henry's father, Ras Michael (given name Michael George Henry, originally from Jamaica), has been in the spotlight since the 1970s as a reggae singer and has performed with marquee acts, including Bob Marley and the Wailers.

* * * * *

In terms of individual play and team performance, what's been the biggest challenge of jumping from Division I ball at Nebraska to the pro level in Japan?

It's just kind of a new style of basketball (for me). I played at Nebraska and the Big 12 was a physical conference, and as far as here, some games can be physical and some are not, and you have to be smart about what you do out there on the court.

I've got to watch out sometimes about making early fouls and keeping my mind straight in the game, and don't let things get to my head. It's just a learning experience.

I really want to learn and get better. My goal is to become one of the top point guards in the league.

I have to learn from my mistakes and do better next time. As (Happinets veteran point guard Makoto) Hasegawa tells me, "Forget about the last play and just move on."

What's similar and what's different about your preparation for games from college to now, especially with the two-game series here in the bj-league?

It's pretty hard to have back-to-back games and win both games. When you beat a team the first time, the team that lost always comes out harder (the next day) because they are mad they lost. . . .

It's almost like a small tournament. That's what it reminds me of — a mini-tournament — and you've got to win two games.

Do you feel you are having a good season for Akita? And what aspects of your games do you believe need the most improvement?

I think my season with the Northern Happinets has been pretty good, but it can be a lot better, especially with what I know I can do for this team. I feel I have to improve driving the ball and getting easier baskets for other players.

Sometimes I need to be aggressive and I shoot some shots and I make them; sometimes, I see mistakes where I just have the ball and they are just standing around.

LeBron (James) had that problem with the Cleveland Cavaliers; he would just have the ball and the other players were standing around.

I want to keep everybody involved, so they know what I am going to do, or can expect, what play I am going to do: pass or shoot the ball.

What are Akita bench boss Bob Pierce's strengths as a coach in your opinion? And how do you think his years of work in Japan, previously in the JBL, as a national team assistant coach and as a coach for Shiga, have helped the Happinets develop as a first-year expansion team?

It helps a lot having that experience (here in Japan), and everyone knows that he has that experience and we all have confidence in him and in what he says. . . . He's really good at knowing what players' strengths are on the court, and he lets you play to your strengths, and that's one thing I really like.

How important has Hasegawa, who doubles as team man ager/goodwill ambassador and has been a fan favorite for years in Japan, been to the team's outreach to the community? Does he seem to really enjoy this role?

Oh yeah, no doubt, he does (embrace that role), and he works very hard. I think we have the best fans in the league. And they come out screaming, win or lose they are there, and that's help from what Hase does.

Specifically, what have you learned from Hasegawa?

He's always on the move to help out and it shows. I really admire him for that. One thing I want to work on, too, from what I've seen from Hase is he has a very strong mind. You can't tell if he's really mad or what his mind's thinking.

He always looks the same way. Sometimes with me, I am an emotional player, you can see it, and I know I have to work on that.

Who do you believe are the best all-around players on an opposing team you've competed against so far this season in Japan? What makes them such tough foes?

I used to hear about this guy (Fukuoka's) Michael Parker all the time, and I can see why everyone talks about him. One thing about Michael Parker (the two-time reigning scoring champion and current league leader) is he doesn't look like it, but he just knows how to score points.

He averages 30 (actually 27.7 ppg) and gets 40 in some games. I don't understand how he does that, and the defender will always be pissed off if he scores that.

He knows how to score, to move slow, knows how to catch the ball at the right places and how to draw a foul. He's one of those types of players when you see him on the court, you think you can shut him down and he still gets 25.

Also, Kyoto's Wendell White (last season's regular-season MVP) is a strong player and he can post up and attack the basket and he has a pretty good jump shot. I really like playing against him.

Your father, Ras Michael, has performed with some of the world's most famous reggae singers. Has his commitment to his craft inspired you? And has he offered you any advice about performing as an athlete on a different sort of big stage?

It's just in the genes and in the blood. He just gets in that zone out there and he told me when I get out there that's the same thing that will happen to me. He always told me he always wanted to do reggae music, but he knows that basketball was my love and whatever I put my mind to I would be good at.

He's the type of guy that just doesn't give up and always fights for what he does, and I was going to be the same way. I felt the same way: I just don't give up. I hate losing, even on video games. . . . So that's the mentality I have and that's always the mentality I want to have and just follow my dream and make it come true.

As a backcourt player, who are a few NBA guards, past or present, you try to emulate or copy certain parts of their game? Why do you like these players?

Two people I can relate to are (Oklahoma City's) Russell Westbrook and (Golden State's) Monta Ellis, two guys 6-3 or 6-4 (190 or 193 cm).

I played a lot against Russell Westbrook in high school. He's explosive, attacks the basket and his jump shot is doing a lot better. . . . He developed a lot better in college.

These are players that I really admire now and have the same size and body build right now.

Also, I always look up to (Los Angeles Lakers superstar) Kobe Bryant. His mind, his will power, is just amazing.

That's one guy I always admire and before our games, before I leave my apartment, I always look at a YouTube video, "Greatness Personified," before I go out because it shows his plays, from scoring, defense and assists, and all that. It just gets me going before the game.



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