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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 20, 2001

BYUH's Japanese point guard learning about celebrity

 •  Division II notebook

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Yuta Tabuse arrived at Brigham Young-Hawai'i two years ago but is playing his first season with the Seasiders this season. Tabuse, with coach Ken Wagner, garners a lot of attention as a basketball player because he's from Japan.

Associated Press

He hates the attention.

But there's no getting around it.

Yuta Tabuse is surrounded by the buzz. From local media, from Japanese TV stations, from tourists who just want a glimpse at the 5-foot-8 point guard at Brigham Young-Hawai'i who should, by now, be used to the attention.

"It doesn't bother me," he said, pausing. "Well, not really."

No good at baseball — "I had to be catcher because I was chubby, and I was not real good at it" — and not interested in soccer, Tabuse laced up basketball shoes when he was 9 years old, following in his older sister's Nikes. And once he watched his first NBA game — Lakers vs. Pistons — he was hooked.

Sports has been a family thing for the Tabuses from Yokohama.

His mom played basketball; his dad competed in rugby, judo and baseball.

"We don't like to study," Tabuse said, with a laugh. "We're a sports family."

But an education was important enough for Tabuse that he chose to come to the United States for college. The 21-year-old, who was recruited by the University of Hawai'i, chose BYUH for its English as an International Language program. Meeting the team sealed his decision.

And that decision has made the coaching staff at BYUH very happy.

"He's a true point guard, and that's hard to find," said assistant coach Brandyn Akana. "He's someone who takes good care of the ball, scores on occasion, and gets the ball to others at the right time. Yuta does all that."

In 10 games this season, Tabuse, a freshman, is averaging 6.3 points, 5 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.2 rebounds per game. (He arrived in La'ie three years ago, sitting out his first year due to NCAA foreign-player rules and his second because of a back injury.)

Though not off to a stellar start this season (he averaged 20 points, 10 assists and four steals per game as a high school senior), Tabuse is just getting into the groove, getting used to the American game and getting the ball to his scoring teammates.

Three Seasiders are averaging in double digits in scoring, thanks, in part, to Tabuse. Forward Alexus Foyle leads the team with 20.8 points per game. Forward Keli'i Naihe and center Scott Salisbury chip in 14.8 and 14.6, respectively.

"People forget that even a great high school player doesn't tear it up his first 10 games," said BYUH coach Ken Wagner. "He's actually done a remarkable job. He'll just get better every game. He's quick, very good with the ball, a good passer, a very good shooter."

As unselfish as he is with the ball, Wagner wants him to take more shots.

"Yeah, that's what coach says," Tabuse admitted. "But so far, I've been focusing on passing the ball because we have good shooters. I feel I don't need to shoot, just pass to them and they can make it. I thought that was the best way before, but I need to change my mind and score more."

Beyond the arc, Tabuse is shooting just .214, making only three of 14 attempts. It's the one part of his game he still struggles with.

"I don't like shooting 3-pointers," he said. "In high school I almost never shot them. I could penetrate easier and shoot from middle range. But here, it's not that easy for me (to penetrate), so I know I have to practice threes."

The Yahoo! Sports Invitational, which starts today in La'ie, will be an important test for the 7-3 Seasiders, who fell to a beatable Lincoln (Mo.) Monday night.

"We played a lot of really tough teams in the preseason, as good as teams I can remember, that have prepared us for the games coming up," said Salisbury, who scored 27 points against Lincoln. "We're starting to mesh as a team. We're getting to know each other's habits, strengths and weaknesses, which teammates are more apt to shoot, things like that."

The Seasiders can't play the way they did Monday night against the Division I teams in the tourney. Not if they want to win.

"They were a really good team. They're aggressive, they hit every shot," Tabuse said. "Our defense was so bad, horrible. We should've won that game last night. So upset."

Tabuse isn't used to losing.

After leading Noshiro Kogyo High School to three consecutive national titles, Tabuse played on Japan's junior national team, twice sinking the game-winning basket.

And though just playing Division I schools can help the Seasiders, who are finding a balance between quick shooting and slowing down the offense, losing, even to good teams, isn't fun.

"No matter how you look at it, what the details are, a loss is a loss," Salisbury said. "You can take something from it, but you can never feel 100 percent good about losing, no matter who it's against."

Bottom line: The Seasiders need to come confident and ready to play.

"We just have to do the things we've learned," Wagner said. "And I think if we stick to that, we'll compete very well."