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Vol.12-4 December 2004 / January 2005


Hoop Dreams - Yuta Tabuse, "The Jordan of Japan"

 Yuta Tabuse's boyhood dream of becoming the first Japanese player to crack the NBA came true on November 1 when the Phoenix Suns announced that he had made the opening night active roster, thus making him the basketball equivalent of baseball's Hideo Nomo. Tabuse, a rather diminutive 5-9, 165-pound point guard from Yokohama, is the sports equivalent of a rock star in Japan where he had been a media favorite since leading Noshiro Kogyo High School to three straight national titles and playing on Japan's junior national team.

Tabuse then went on to play for Brigham Young University-Hawaii's where he averaged 7.6 points per game and led the Pacific West Conference in assists at 6.5 per contest. Returning to Japan to play for the Toyota Alvark, Tabuse was named 2002-2003 rookie of the year in Japan's pro league.
But Tabuse's travels were not over. In pursuit of his dream, he returned to America in 2003 where his summer league passing and ball-handling skills did not escape the attention of the NBA scouts. Thanks to his solid summer league play, Tabuse

 signed a contract with the Denver Nuggets in September 2003, becoming the first Japanese player to sign with an NBA franchise.

But Tabuse was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Nuggets already had a diminutive point guard in Earl Boykins, so he did not make the final cut. However, all was certainly not lost since, during an exhibition game last October vs. the Phoenix Suns, Tabuse scored seven points, three rebounds and three assists in a mere 11 minutes of play. After being released by the Nuggets, Tabuse went on to play for the ABA's Long Beach Jam (where Dennis Rodman also briefly played), and averaged an impressive team-high 6.3 assists.

All of this did not escape the attention of the Phoenix Suns, who signed Tabuse in September 2004. According to the Suns' head coach, Tabuse worked exceptionally hard and fully earned his place on the team.

But however significant this move is for him and the people of Japan, Tabuse - the "Michael Jordan of Japan"- remains focused on the task at hand. Upon learning that he had made the cut, Tabuse said, "I feel great right now, but I'm going to keep playing hard. I might celebrate tonight, but that's it. I'm going to focus and look forward to working hard."

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