By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
As the Seattle Storm finish out their season next month, they will do it with just the third Japanese player in WNBA history. Ramu Tokashiki has been a welcome addition to a young, rebuilding team.
Tokashiki was signed by the WNBA’s Seattle Storm this spring. She was one of three rookies to play for the Storm this year. At just 24, she is a four-time MVP of the Women’s Japan Basketball League. One of the reasons that she wanted to play in the WNBA was the challenge of playing against better talent. She also indicated that she would like to promote basketball in Japan. Many that have watched her play note her athleticism which is an added positive due to her 6-foot-3 frame.
Her ability to dunk the basketball, still a rarity in women’s basketball, helped sell her to her new teammates. With one of the first times she handled the ball during informal workouts in the pre-season, Tokashiki (known as “Taku” to teammates) dunked with ease. Tokashiki stated that she had to “burn something in everyone’s minds.” This drew the immediate attention of team leader and most senior of all Storm players, Sue Bird. The 13 year pro was impressed with her jumping ability as well as her speed in playing near the basket.
Tokashiki averages eight points per game and three rebounds per game. She had a season-high 21 points against Tulsa on June 21st. But, a shaky start to the season had Tokashiki question her decision to come to the WNBA and play. She was able to dominate the Japanese league due to her size and athleticism, but faced a transition in play and physicality. The WNBA presented bigger and better competition, something that she had searched for when coming to the league. Tokashiki has learned to play more physical throughout the season. An opposing player stated that Tokashiki “plays with a chip on her shoulder.”
Tokashiki originally came off the bench for the Storm but was moved to the starting lineup during the season. She has also gained the respect of opposing players across the league. She also fell just 442 ballots short of being voted in as an All-Star starter. But, a portion of the votes may be due to her popularity (and one may assume a lot of votes from Japan) with fans and not based on pure play.
Tokashiki is the third Japanese player to play in the WNBA in the league’s almost 20 years of existence. Even in her rookie year, she has exceeded the statistics of her predecessors.
In Seattle, Tokashiki has been able to explore the city when not on the court. She likes mini golf, museumsn, and barbecues. Her stature has made her a recognizable figure off the court as well as on. One might expect that she may gain a steady following similar to that of Ichiro when he played for the Seattle Mariners or current Mariners pitcher Hishashi Iwakuma.
Tokashiki has taken a slight detour from the Storm as she left the team after their August 21st game to compete with the Japan National Team in China. However, she will return for the Storm’s game September 11th and will end the season with the Storm. Japan will attempt to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio this year. Tokashiki will be one of the key players that should help Japan if they are to qualify for next summer’s Olympics. The Japan women’s team has not played in an Olympics since the Athens Olympics in 2004. She will be one of the bright stars that hopes to play for her country at the 2020 Summer Olympics in her home country of Japan. A medal in the Olympics for Japan women’s basketball seems out of reach at this point, but it is one of Tokashiki’s goals and with more experience from the Storm forward, who knows. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.