This column appeared in The Japan Times in September 2008.

Fanfare greets Tabuse in return

By Ed Odeven

UTSUNOMIYA, Tochigi Pref. — For 40 minutes of action, all eyes focused on him. Pride, curiosity and excitement characterized the occasion.

And don’t forget this one: historic.

Yuta Tabuse made his highly anticipated return to Japanese basketball on Friday night, playing the starring role in the Link Tochigi Brex’s 82-66 loss to the Toshiba Brave Thunders at Utsunomiya Municipal Gymnasium.

The point guard wore jersey No. 0, but clearly he was the No. 1 man of interest at the arena.

The Yokohama native’s stat line — 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting, four assists, three rebounds, three turnovers and one steal — was ordinary (backcourt mate Takuya Kawamura also played the full 40 minutes and gave the Brex a team-best 16 points), but the pregame attention he received wasn’t.

When the P.A. announcer called out his name, there was not a silent voice in the arena. The fans showered Tabuse with a warm round of applause, reminding him that he remains a fan favorite.

Friday marked the start of a new era for the JBL (one foreigner per team at a time on the court), and the next chapter in Tabuse’s career.

From a personal level, he was pleased with how it began.

“I played well,” he told reporters. “But 40 minutes is not perfect for me.”

OK, it wasn’t ideal, but it’s better than the alternative.

While toiling in the NBA Development League over the past three seasons, Tabuse played a combined 117 games, but made only seven starts.

Tochigi’s season opener was a clear indication that Tabuse won’t be pushing management to give him more playing time. Coach Mitsuhiko Kato’s game plan will begin with Tabuse running the show.

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