Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Japan’s JR Sakuragi thinks his time is probably done.

After missing the FIBA Asia q’finals, Japan’s JR Sakuragi thinks his time is probably done.
by rick olivares

After Japan took a 65-56 loss to Jordan to end their quarterfinals dreams in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, it was a disappointed team that trudged off the court. After their opening day 76-59 win over Hong Kong, Japan lost it’s next four matches by a combined a combined 32 points.

The Japanese nearly defeated Qatar losing only on the last play of the match for a heartbreaking 75-74 loss. They got bowled over by the Philippines in their next match before coming out with a fantastic effort against Chinese Taipei only to be derailed by spotty officiating.

A morose Japan team saw it’s chance slip away against Chinese Taipei. Although head coach Kimikazu Suzuki was gracious and polite during the post-match press con, he didn’t bother to hide his disappointment over the officiating during the Chinese Taipei game. “They (the referees) killed us,” he said through the team interpreter.

With less than 24 hours to get over the disappointment, Japan came out with less energy and were booted out by the Jordanians.

With sweat dripping down his face, JR Sakuragi, Japan’s naturalized player, strode out with a frown. “We were just really out of this,” he said unable to hide his displeasure and disappointment. “We lacked the energy while Jordan was relentless.”

I asked him if he thought of coming back for one more run with the Japanese national team. At 36 years of age (one of the oldest in the tournament including China’s Wang Zhizhi and Qatar’s Yasseen Musa), Sakuragi thinks, he’s done. “We have a lot of younger players coming up. I think they should be given the exposure and the opportunity.”

During his first FIBA tournament for Japan in 2007, Sakuragi had little time to mesh with his teammates and they finished eighth in the competition. The 6’8” Sakuragi registered 11.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists for Japan that finished with an even 4-4 record.

Six years later in his second appearance in the biennial championship tournament for Asia, Sakuragi is averaging nearly identical numbers at an older age: 11.4 points (on 39% shooting),  11.0 rebounds, and  2.4 assists. Those numbers plummeted against Jordan where he shot at a poor 10% and registered five points in 34 minutes. “I played poorly,” he admitted. “I…” His voice trailed off.

With his team at 1-4, the Japanese have three more games to play in the classification round. “We have a couple of more matches. Hopefully, we can end on a high note. But it is still disappointing.”

Sakuragi walked off shaking his head.               

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