This feature on veteran forward Kazuhiro Shoji appeared in The Japan Times in October 2006. In April 2019, Shoji completed his third season as the Niigata Albirex BB head coach, and at the time of this post, he’s preparing to lead his team into the B. League playoffs for the first time.
By Ed Odeven
TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Some things are inevitable: political scandals in election years, bad hair days, predictable plots in action-movie sequels.
And don’t forget this: Athletes finding themselves at a crossroads at age 30.
Many pros begin to decline as their physical skills erode. Or, they prolong their career by learning how to better use their talents in competition and manage their time away from the spotlight.
Chalk up the latter as the approach Kazuhiro Shoji takes into the bj-league’s second season.
The 32-year-old forward revealed as much after the Saitama Broncos completed a demanding 2 1/2-hour workout recently at Mihara Junior High School’s gym.
“I’ve healed the injuries that I’ve had,” he said through an interpreter. “I went into the gym and I’ve rebuilt my whole body. That’s why I feel like I’ve done a good job in this preseason.
“For me, it is going well.”
Shoji is a newcomer to the Broncos. He played for the Fukuoka Red Falcons of the JBL Super League last season, but the team folded due to financial difficulties.
Now he is eager to make an impact for his new squad, which opens the 2006-07 campaign on Nov. 4 at home against the expansion Toyama Grouses.
“I’m one of the older players on the team so what I want to do is I want to talk with the younger guys and (say), ‘Hey, we are going to have our good times and we are going to have our bad times but we’ve got to try to make the bad times as smooth as possible so that we can win the game,’ ” Shoji said.
“That’s what I would like to tell the younger players.”
When new Broncos coach Kenji Yamane was asked to assess Shoji’s value to the young team — 11 of the 14 players on the preseason roster are in their 20s — he responded with this statement: “I see him as a team leader.”