Is Kawamura taking a leap following active summer with Akatsuki Japan?
TOKYO (Japan) - What a year it has been for Yuki Kawamura.
Japan basketball fans always knew there was something special about the 21-year-old, ever since they watched him command the youth teams in the recent years. He had already expressed his intention to be a part of the team should they qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics earlier in the year when he made the decision to go pro and drop out of college.
Even with those expectations set in the first months of the calendar, what Kawamura has been able to accomplish since has generated a lot of excitement.
It started with an Akatsuki Japan senior national team debut in June against Chinese Taipei. In his first game ever playing at this level, Kawamura "failed" to score a single point or even attempt a field goal, but he recorded 8 assists and 5 steals in the victory.
Head coach Tom Hovasse could not stop gushing about the impact that the youngster brought into the game.
"He gave us a big boost on the defensive end," said Hovasse after that first game. "We really wanted to increase our steals and we have a really hard time doing that, even though we’re trapping. He came in and got 4 steals in the second quarter by himself and we have 5 steals in the second quarter total so he caused a lot of that with his speed and just his decision making on the defensive end with his ball pressure."
"I didn’t know what to expect from him and I was really happily surprised with what he did."
More or less, that debut certainly helped Kawamura’s case to be included in the FIBA Asia Cup 2022 squad. In Jakarta, he went right back to work and put up 8 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals in the very first game against Kazakhstan.
"He did the same thing [as he did against Chinese Taipei] and really changed the game," said Hovasse back at the Asia Cup. "I was hoping for that. He’s a young guy but he’s confident. He knows his role and I thought he was great. He really made an impact on the game."
Veteran teammate and role model Yuki Togashi was also not short of praise for his protégé in their first major FIBA competition together.
"As you can see its really rare to have two small players [like me and Kawamura] but it’s also important to emphasize that it’s not the size that matters," said the 1.67M (5'6") point guard. "We also have our speed and defensive prowess and as you can see, Kawamura had several steals and from there we had great defensive stops."
Japan ended up losing in the Quarter-Finals to the eventual champions, Australia, and Kawamura ended up with him averaging 4.4 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.2 steals per contest. Even with all of his confidence, Kawamura was surprised by how his summer with the national team went.
"I didn't think I would be involved in national team activities for such a long time," he admitted in Japanese as per Basketball King.
Soaking up experience
Whether he expected it or not, Kawamura spent months practicing and learning with the national team while also playing in 8 official games in FIBA competitions. He capped off the summer with another outstanding performance of 7 points, 7 assists, and 5 steals, again against Kazakhstan.
As basketball fans, we’ve all seen in the past how these first national team experiences can accelerate a player’s development - no matter how talented they already are. Even the players in the caliber of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have all been able to pick up some new tricks during their time with the best players in their country.
After his summer stint with Akatsuki Japan, Kawamura is also showing signs of making a leap by just being around the likes of Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba who have played professionally outside of Japan.
"I would say that both of them are very influential," said Kawamura as per Basketball King. "We communicated a lot on the court."
"It's amazing how they pay attention to various things even off the court. They take great care of their bodies, and I've heard stories about their meals, but I thought it was amazing that they put in so much effort that I couldn't even imagine."
Another key part of his improvement is being able to work on aspects of his game that needs sharpening with the mentoring of coach Hovasse. While Kawamura has stood out with his defense and passing, Hovasse pointed out that Kawamura tended to not even "face the rim" at times.
With that on mind, the young guard took that piece of advice and adapted his game to be more aggressive with scoring opportunities.
Keep it going
The results have been promising.
At least that’s what fans have been witnessing in Japan’s B.League where Kawamura is playing as a full-time professional for the first season.
As the point guard for Yokoama B-Corsairs, Kawamura is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes played. He leads all players in assists as the only player to average double-digits dimes with 11.0 per contest while also putting up 15.6 points per game. The floor general had a 7-game streak of posting double-doubles through the month of October.
Next order of business for Kawamura is potentially a return to the national team, where he has been named to the preliminary training camp roster of 13 players.
Japan's training camp roster in preparation for Window 5
|Makoto Hiejima||Aki Chambers||Luke Evans||Yutaro Suda|
|Tenketsu Harimoto||Yuki Togashi||Koh Flippin||Avi Koki Schafer|
|Hirotaki Yoshii||Kai Toews||Yudai Nishida||Soichiro Inoue|
Japan are scheduled to play against Bahrain on November 11 and will then play their third game against Kazakhstan this year on November 14. Kawamura could have a good chance to continue growing in these games, further showing how much he has improved this summer.
In the end, this is all on track with his ultimate target.
"I have always had the goal of being one of the point guards who can beat the world as a member of the Japanese national team," he said prior to the B.League season as per Basketball King.
"The World Cup will be held in Japan, so I definitely want to participate. And if we have a good result there, we will be given the right to participate in the Paris 2024 Olympics. I really want to participate in the World Cup in order to achieve the Japanese national team's goal of participating in the Paris Olympics."