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How a mixtape brought Enomoto to Cairo for Japan
CAIRO (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - Shinsaku Enomoto is the latest product of Japan's extensive recruiting process for new players. And his place on the national team at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017 came thanks in large part to a mixtape.
Enomoto is making his national team debut in Cairo and his most recent game was the best one he's had in the tournament as he collected 12 points and 8 rebounds in Japan's heartbreaking loss to Italy in the Round of 16.
"Coach told us coming in this was probably one of our most important games for our country. We wanted to move to the top eight, and we just wanted to give it everything we got. And that's what we did," Enomoto said. "Italy is a really good team. They have a lot of talent. It's just tough to go out like that when they hit a shot like that (Tommaso Oxilia's winner with 1.4 seconds left). We have no regrets, we gave everything we had and we're proud of that."
Enomoto's journey to Egypt actually comes thanks in large part to his mother.
"I had a high school highlight tape and my mom sent it out and one of the assistant coaches from the national team saw it and asked me to try out. I ended up trying out and making the team," Enomoto said. "It's definitely a pretty cool experience. I have always dreamt of representing my country. It feels good."
Japan's national team is slowly looking more representative of the country as a whole - with a multicultural aspect present in the country now creeping into the team. In addition to Rui Hachimura, whose father is from the west African nation of Benin, there is Japanese-German Avi Schafer and now Enomoto, whose father is an American Armed Forces member and was born in Okinawa.
While Hachimura was a star in Japan's school system, Schafer was found by Japanese coach Torsten Loibl and his assistants at a school where officials did not look favorably on recruiting players. And Enomoto became a sensation in the eyes of the Japanese public playing at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. In fact, in the United States Enomoto is known as Isaiah Murphy. He lived in Okinawa until he was three, then his family moved to Alaska. Later the family returned to Japan and they came back to the united states for the last four years.
"The biggest issue is recruiting," the German native Loibl said. "We don't need to worry about the names of the schools - big names or no names. That is the biggest difference. We need to find guys who fit the future style of Japanese basketball."
Enomoto is happy that Japan have widened their recruiting scope.
"They've always said Japan isn't really a strong international team but Coach Torsten was just kind of looking for kids with Japanese blood and a little more talent to kind of help the team out," he said.
When asked if there are more mixed race Japanese talents coming, Enomoto nodded and said: "Absolutely. They're out there."
Those players might just need their moms to send out a mixtape.