09 - 18
September 2016
35 Ira Demon Brown (JPN)
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Brown out to give it his all for Japan

TEHRAN (FIBA Asia Challenge 2016) - The last time Japan employed a naturalized player was way back in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship that was held in Manila, Philippines. Their reinforcement then was 2.03m JR Sakuragi (formerly JR Henderson). Despite Sakuragi’s presence, things didn’t turn out too well for Japan in that competition. Coach Kimikazu Suzuki’s wards failed to make it to the Quarter-Finals for only the second time in the tournament’s history, finishing ninth out of fifteen squads.

Japan chose not to have a naturalized player for the next handful of high profile international tournaments, going with “all local” casts for the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, 2014 Asian Games, 2015 FIBA Asia Championship and 2016 FIBA OQT. This is why it was a bit of a surprise that they brought in naturalized American Ira Demon Brown for the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016. Brown is different from Sakuragi in a number of ways, the most obvious of which is the fact that the former is much shorter at just 1.93m tall. Brown makes up for that, however, with speed, athleticism and explosiveness. Whereas Sakuragi was content to protect the rim and grab the rebounds while deferring the offense to his teammates, Brown takes a proactive approach on both ends of the floor. That’s probably one reason for Japan’s high level of competitiveness in this tournament, and it’s a good sign for the future, too, as Brown seems to have been signed for the long-term and is willing to give his all for the Akatsuki Five.

After Japan’s win over India last night, Brown shared his sentiments with FIBA.com.

FIBA.com: How does it feel representing Japan and playing in your first FIBA tournament?
Brown: It feels great and like an amazing accomplishment to represent a country that I truly cherish, and to play for an amazingly smart coaching staff and players. Everyone works extremely hard, and I couldn’t ask for a better country to be a part of.

FIBA.com: What can you say about how your team has performed in this tournament so far? Can you say that you met your goals?
Brown: As for my team’s performance, I feel that even if we have trained together for only a short time, we have done well so far. As for as our expectations, I feel as if we have underachieved a little bit. However, we have competed with every team so far with young players who have tremendous upside in terms of representing Japan in the future. I am really excited about the future of Japanese basketball!

FIBA.com: How are you still effective at playing forward despite being a little undersized compared to most teams?
Brown: With me, it is all about the will to be successful in any position I am thrown in. I know big men are taller, of course, but I am quicker, and I can out-jump most of them if they don’t box me out. As long as I can give my team an edge or an opportunity to win the game, I don’t care what position I have to play. Most of the time, it’s about heart and outworking your opponent. That’s what I pride myself on doing — giving it my all.

FIBA.com: How will you approach the final game versus China? What must your team do to get 5th place?
Brown: The game versus China is no different than any other game, I feel. We must box out and push the tempo, since we are smaller. Their bigs will get tired after a while. I feel that our advantage is to run in the open court. Now we are beginning to figure that out as we have such a wonderful leader/coach in coach Hasegawa and his staff.

FIBA.com: Do you still plan to be part of Team Japan in future FIBA Asia competitions?
Brown: I would love to be a part of Team Japan as much as they will have me in any Asian competition. That is my country now and to represent it, I will continue to give it my all. It is a privilege.