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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Basketball Film Study: Keisei Tominaga

June 10, 2021

The first thing on Fred Hoiberg’s checklist for team needs after his first two years in Lincoln was knock-down 3-point shooting. If his two years of junior college ball are anything to judge from, Hoiberg found just that in Japanese sharp-shooter Keisei Tominaga.

The 6-foot guard shot 48.3% on 410 3-point attempts in two season at Ranger College, and he wasn’t exactly just spotting up in the corner toeing the line and taking wide open shots. This season, Tominaga averaged 16.3 points on 51% from the field, 48.7% from 3 and 88.3% from the free-throw line as Ranger went 22-5 and advance to the NJCAA Final Four.

Tominaga actually got off to something of a slow start this season, averaging just 8.8 points while shooting 38.2% from deep in his first eight games. Then he broke out in a big way in game nine, exploding for a career-high 39 points on 13-18 shooting including 11-of-16 from deep in a 113-102 win over Grayson College. A month earlier, Tominaga scored just 11 points in a 17-point loss to that same Grayson team.

From that second Grayson game through the end of the season, Tominaga averaged 19.5 points and shot 50.9% from 3. To get a better feel for what Tominaga is going to bring to the table, I took a dive into the film from that second Grayson game to see how Tominaga got those points.

Tominaga showed who he is right from the start. This play starts on defense where Ranger failed to get the floor balanced defensively in transition. Tominaga picked up the ball but his man swung it to an open shooter in the corner. Tominaga (30) sprinted to the shooter to try to offer contest. Notice where he ended up.

The shot missed and Ranger secured the board, creating a transition opportunity. Tominaga sprinted up the floor and got ahead of the pack as his teammate drew the defense by pushing it up the middle of the floor before passing it over to Tominaga. Notice where he caught the ball and where the defenders were.

Instead of trying to beat the defenders to the rim for a layup or a foul, Tominaga took one dribble and pulled up from the right wing. Money.

A couple possessions later, Tominaga nocked down back-to-back right corner catch-and-shoot 3s, the first against a full-court press and the second after a stop and push-ahead. Apparently the two shots from the corner were too close for him, because he spotted up at 23 feet shortly after and buried another catch-and-shoot look with a hand in his face.

Grayson played mostly zone defense, which probably played a big part in Tominaga hoisting up 16 3-pointers. He got another look from the corner simply by relocating from the wing to the corner and waiting for the ball to swing around to him for the catch-and-shoot look — swish.

Tominaga finally missed one, but it was a good action against the zone for him to cut down to the block then pop out to the corner. He faded slightly as he caught it on the move and put it just a little long, but it was still right on target.

Later, Ranger got him another look against the zone with a designed play. Tominaga started on the right wing and Ranger swung the ball to him. He gave it right back then cut down and through to the opposite side.

Ranger reversed the ball to Tominaga in his new spot, and again he gave it right back then cut down and through.

This time, a big man set a screen for him and he ran through to the corner.

Ranger swung him the ball and he pump-faked as a defender sprinted to the corner and sold out for the contest (obviously the view isn’t great here, but you can see the defender in the air).

As the defender flew by, Tominaga took one dribble to his left then pulled up for the relocation 3. Splash.

The stamina it takes to sprint from one side to the other and back again and then still have the legs and wind to shoot is impressive in itself, but the recognition to read the defender, put the ball on the deck and still hit it takes it to another level. He was just getting started, though.

Tominaga didn’t do ALL his damage from the 3-point line, just most of it. He got a couple of buckets inside the arc, including this one.

Off a stop, Ranger pushed the ball in transition and got it inside to a big man, who drew a double-team before he could get the shot up. Tominaga’s defender turned his back to watch the ball, which Tominaga noticed and exploited by immediately cutting down the lane.

His teammate found him and Tominaga showed off some touch, dropping in a floater over the outstretched arm of the defender.

Again, Tominaga made the correct read and had the skill level to capitalize on Grayson’s mistake. He also earned a trip to the foul line late in the first half as he caught the ball on the wing in transition, pump-faked a defender into closing out, ran by him and then got bodied by a defender rotating over late for the foul.

Halftime didn’t cool him down one bit. This was his first shot attempt, after an offensive rebound and kick-out.

I mean, come on. From 25 feet, over a good contest by the defender and he drilled it.

He hit his next 3 too, an open catch-and-shoot look from the right corner. Then he hit two more, and I’ll break both of those down here to wrap this up.

First, he stepped into an open catch-and-shoot 3, only he was nearly standing on the sideline when he did it. Didn’t matter; bucket.

On the next play, he caught it in basically the same spot, and the defender — seeing what had happened the last time — flew out at him as he gave a shot fake.

As the defender sailed by, Tominaga put the ball on the deck and stepped in to take the shot from closer to the arc, pulling up for another swish.

You don’t want to give Tominaga two looks on the same possession, and that’s exactly what Grayson did on his final 3-point bucket as Ranger ran the zone beater to get him a look in the corner again, and he missed. However, a teammate secured the ball and kicked it back out to Tominaga who got open during the scramble, and he wasn’t missing twice.

Tominaga is obviously an elite shooter. To what degree that translates to the Big Ten is still a question, but he’s deadly accurate, he has deep range and he can shoot off the dribble and off movement. That kind of shot versatility will give him a chance to thrive in Hoiberg’s offense.

Tominaga hardly handled the ball at all, and the couple of times he did bring it up against the press he picked the ball up when a defender drew near. I wouldn’t expect to see Nebraska ask him to dribble more than once or twice at any point. However, with point guards like Trey McGwoens (6-foot-4) and Dalano Banton (6-foot-9) likely to be running the show, Hoiberg can get away with playing a smaller off-guard. We’ve saw that with Kobe Webster when he played off the ball this past season.

With his ball-handling and athletic limitations, Tominaga doesn’t look to be a threat to create for others. That being said, I thought he moved the ball well within the flow of the game against Grayson, finding openings in the zone or making the right swing pass on time and on target. He had 44 assists to 24 turnovers this season after posting 21 assists and 22 turnovers as a freshman.

Defensively, Ranger switched back and forth between a 2-3 and a 3-2 all game, so it’s hard to get a great feel for his one-on-one ability. Even within the zone it looked like he had a tough time staying in front of people. However, he does play hard and effort goes a long way on defense.

Hoiberg is going to have a lot of options to sort through next season, and I’m not totally sure how Tominaga fits into the picture, particularly with Webster coming back for one more year. However, there’s a chance he’ll step onto campus as the best shooter in the program, and that will be a nice tool for Hoiberg to have in his toolbox next season.

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