An interview project with B-League and W-League players looking back on their high school days, the 11th is Seahorses Mikawa’s Avi Schafer. How did the player, who started basketball in earnest from the second year of high school, hone his skills in a short period of time and was able to reach the Japanese national team? We will deliver it over the first part and the second part.
I started playing basketball when I changed schools
Schaefer started playing basketball in the second year of high school. Did you play any sports until then?
Until Schaefer High School, I used to play soccer and martial arts Nippon Kempo. You’ve been playing some other sport, such as touch football, flag football, and swimming. I wasn’t clearly aiming to be a professional, but when I was asked about my dreams as a kid, I said I was a soccer player. The school I attended wasn’t very strong because I lost the second round of the district tournament, but when I entered high school, I joined the club team that Shinji Kagawa, called Senano Kobe, belonged to. The position was FW and the weapon was heading because he was tall.
How did you spend your childhood other than sports?
I was playing Schaefer drums. Because of my parents who love music, my brother is in a school orchestra and my brother is playing the guitar, but I like snare drums and say, “Drums are cool.” I started with a feeling. He was a busy child because of his lessons.
What made you decide to play basketball?
I moved from Kobe to Tokyo when I was in my first year at Schaefer High School, and I played soccer for a while, but I wasn’t very strong. It was after experiencing the high level of Senano Kobe, so I couldn’t get a sense of fulfillment. At that time, I was invited by basketball, and I enjoyed playing basketball, so I started in the winter season of my second year of high school.
How was it when you started playing basketball in earnest?
Schaefer was fun. The development was fast and I wonder if it suits me. Since basketball gets a lot of points, I have a chance to score points, and even if I make a mistake, I have a chance to recover, so it was easy to do. I was tall and had an advantage, so it was great to have fun doing it. However, I only hit the shot within 1 meter from the goal, and I think it was just a crap when it came to shooting and dribbling.
Are your soccer experiences used in basketball?
Schaefer I think it’s from soccer that I can run for its size and have stamina. Also, this isn’t because I was playing soccer, but I didn’t have a bad habit because I started late. If you continue to play basketball for a long time, for example, if the shot is in a form that is easy for you to hit, I think it is difficult to get rid of the bad habits that you once acquired. I have no habits and I was in a situation where I could fix it as soon as I received good coaching, so I think that is also alive. Basketball is a sport of repetitive practice, so it can work against you, but I feel that it has a positive side in that sense.
How did you feel when you practiced at an international school?
Of course, I practice Schaefer hard, but when I heard from a person from a prestigious high school in Japan after becoming a professional, I had a dormitory life, had morning training, and practiced as soon as school was over, a tremendous amount of runs. I heard that I was training. International schools are more about academics, so it may be a little different from club activities in Japan.
Did you participate in the tournament?
Schaefer participates in American tournaments every summer. I had a national team match, so I could only participate once, but I also participated in a match in the United States.
Only one year after starting basketball, you will be called to the U18 Top Endeavor. It’s like a manga.
Since the club activities of Schaefer International School are seasonal, in the case of basketball, the game starts in November and ends in March. The teacher at St. Mary’s International School, which I attended, formed a club team called TOKYO SAMURAI so that I could play basketball even in the off-season, and I was practicing there as well. TOKYO SAMURAI and the U16 Japan National Team sometimes played a practice match, and (Tosten) Loibl coach called out to me.
How did you feel when you were approached by the Royal Blue Coach?
At the time of Schaefer , I never imagined that I would be a representative, and I didn’t even think of an opportunity (to be seen by the Royal Blue Coach), so I was just surprised, “Well, really!” But when I saw the size of the U18 members, I was the largest, so I thought that there would be a chance if it was just the size, and I was really looking forward to it.
What do you expect to be selected as the U18 Top Endeavor?
At the time of Schaefer, I wasn’t a player who should be called by U18 at all, and I hadn’t reached that level at all, so I felt that he was called in anticipation, knowing that it was the first year. It’s the same with my height, but because I’m half-hearted, my body is rugged, and even though I didn’t have any special training, my body was rather strong. Including such a place, I think that I was asked for the future.
Did you have any pressure?
There was no pressure in the Schaefer Under category. I felt that I was playing on behalf of Japan after I was called by A. When I was U18, it was just fun because everything was new and I could feel myself improving day by day with a very high level of instruction.
What did you feel when you practiced with the players who represent the generation?
All of Schaefer were really good, and all the players were at a level that I had never played with, so I was wondering if I could really be in such a place. That’s why I started by doing what I could do little by little, such as stretching my body on the screen, taking a rebound, and trying to do what I could.
Did you change your approach to practice and your consciousness after being elected as a representative?
Schaefer Until then, I used to practice a little at TOKYO SAMURAI during the off-season, but during the season I worked out alone, and even after the season was over, when I couldn’t use the school gym, I went to the local gym. I was practicing individually. There is also a menu that I decided in consultation with the representative coach, and while watching the video, I gradually increased what I could do, such as dribbling. I found that it was really growing day by day, and I was looking forward to the future myself. I wasn’t catching up with my skills, but I started to feel that I could continue playing basketball in the future, and that was the driving force.
Anyway, you were thinking of catching up with the other members.
Schaefer Because I was always in that environment. When I was called by U18, at Prep School (a school to prepare for college), at Georgia Institute of Technology. Of course, even representative A felt that he was the worst, so my goal was to catch up little by little. I think that being able to always be at a higher level than myself helped me improve my level.
Schaefer Avi Schafer, Seahorses Mikawa Born in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture. When he was in the first year of high school, he moved to St. Mary’s International School and started playing basketball in earnest from high school 2. Convened to the U18 Top Endeavor just one year after starting the competition, he participated in the 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship and the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup. After that, he was elected to the A national team and played in the FIBA World Cup in 2019, the youngest in the history of the Japanese national team. Taking advantage of the blessed physique of 206 cm and 106 kg, he contributes to offense and defense inside. Three-point shots have also been effectively sunk this season, and he has grown into a well-balanced player.