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Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012

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Setting the tempo: Yokohama B-Corsairs guard Draelon Burns (2) is one of the bj-league's top all-around players. KAZ NAGATSUKA

ONE-ON-ONE WITH ...

Yokohama's Burns thrives as leader


Staff writer

The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Draelon Burns of the Yokohama B-Corsairs is the subject of this week's profile.

Position: Guard

Age: 27

Ht: 194 cm;

Wt: 95 kg

Hometown: Milwaukee

College: DePaul

Noteworthy: Burns, who was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve, has come off the bench in 13 of 18 games, making all five of his starts to date between Nov. 3 and 18. He is No. 3 in the league in scoring (20.4), fourth in assists (5.5), first in steals (2.5) and seventh in 3-point shooting accuracy (41.8 percent). He has two triple-doubles this season. . . .

"Draelon's experience, first and foremost, has been a nice addition to our team," Yokohama coach Reggie Geary said in May. "His ability to stretch the floor and make plays just makes the game easier for our team to a degree, and that's something we've needed and was nice to get from him." . . . Last season, the B-Corsairs were 14-14 before Burns joined the team. After that, they went 17-7 to close out the regular season. Burns averaged 12.8 points, dished out 64 assists and made 31 steals in those 24 games.

Burns has played professionally in Israel, Iceland and Germany. In college, he raised his scoring average from 3.4 points as a freshman to 11.6, 11.6 and 17.6 over the next three seasons.

* * *

How influential has coach Geary been for you in helping you be successful in the bj-league? Has it really helped having a former guard as the head coach?

Coach Geary has been very influential. His love for the game alone will influence you to work hard. He shows you that it's OK to be a student of the game and learn more.

I believe that it has helped me a lot that my coach is a former guard, due to the fact that you know he has seen the top (the NBA) therefore he knows the keys to help/build a player let alone a guard like myself.

Can you think of a few examples of how Geary has put you in positions to succeed — maybe strategies or simply advice that has helped you?

Coach helps me be a better point guard, which wasn't something I had back in my years before Yokohama. He also stays on me, he doesn't allow me to slack. With those two things you belong in a pretty good position to succeed.

What do you consider Geary's top strengths as a head coach?

He shows unparalleled intelligence as his advice has guided me to be a better decision-maker on and off the court. He possesses a positive spirit that I think is contagious to myself and teammates. Also his will to push you to your potential without accepting failure (is a big asset).

Growing up, before playing college ball, who were a few players you really admired or tried to emulate — college or pro basketball players? And do you see your style of play as similar to one or more of them?

As far as I can think back I was a big Paul Pierce fan in high school . . . and in college I wanted to shoot like Ray Allen . . . and no I don't think I play like either (one). They are great players and I'm not there yet.

Captain Masayuki Kabaya was a quality scorer last season for the B-Corsairs, averaging 10.9 ppg. So how has it become as or more important for him to be a go-to option without 2011-12 regular-season MVP Justin Burrell, who's now playing in France, on the squad in 2012-13?

I think with us knowing JB wasn't going to be here any longer, we all took it upon ourselves to come back on top of things. Kaba is a hard worker and a great leader and I think it shows on the court.

Having previously played pro ball in Israel, Iceland and Germany, how would you rank the bj-league in terms of talent and competition with those other leagues?

I usually don't like to rank leagues or players. But I'll say Israel is a tough league. My success was limited due to the amount of games I won. . . . So I'll put the bj-league first, Israel second and Germany third.

Did having a triple-double in a victory to complete a sweep against Sendai (on Dec. 14 in Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture) rank as one of the more satisfying single-game accomplishments in your career?

I would have to say yes the close-out triple-double has to be up there with one of my better nights. I didn't shoot the ball too well that game (7-for-19), but it was for sure one of my better games.

After returning to Yokohama in the preseason, do you feel more comfortable with your teammates and the B-Corsairs system now?

Yes, knowing I was coming back helped me focus on the things I know I can do within the offense.

In your own words, can you dish out a few attributes that you think describe yourself as a player?

A few attributes that describe me: I believe cool, calm and collected would be perfect.

Off the court, how do you like to relax?

When I'm not playing and it's relax time, I usually listen to music, watch a movie or chat with friends and family.

Lastly, what areas as a team do you feel are necessary for improvement for the B-Corsairs to be a championship contender in May?

For us to be ready when playoffs come, I believe we just have to keep working hard to get better as a team and individually. We have a great group of guys who all care for each other. So with hard work and dedication I think we will be fine.



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