JUCO guard Keisei Tominaga ready for his shot at Nebraska
HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Considering the torrid pace he’d been on over the past couple of months, Keisei Tominaga had a relatively run-of-the-mill night in Ranger (Texas) College’s first-round matchup with Cochise (Ariz.) College at the NJCAA men’s basketball championship on Monday.
That said, the sophomore guard and 2021 Nebraska signee still put up 14 points, three rebounds, two assists, and steals in 32 minutes to help Ranger to a convincing 86-68 victory.
The fact that Monday’s performance felt a bit average has more to do with just how good Tominaga had been playing.
The native of Moriyama Nagoya Aichi, Japan, came into the NJCAA tournament averaging 15.7 points per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the field, 50.3 percent from 3-point range, and 89.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Over the last 16 games, however, the three-star prospect averaged 18.9 points while making 72 3-pointers at a 52-percent clip.
What’s even more impressive is how Tominaga fought through a slow start to the season where he scored just 8.1 points and shot 34.5 percent from behind the arc over the first seven contests.
“The beginning of the season, I couldn’t play (well),” Tominaga said. “Right now, I’m feeling good. I can make shots now, and I have confidence.”
Ranger head coach Larry Brown said Tominaga wasn’t the only one who stumbled out of the gates early on this season.
Not only was Brown a late hire in November to replace former head coach Billy Gillispie, but the Rangers then lost their first two games after having to quarantine as a team for seven days before each contest due to COVID-19.
“This year was so tough,” Tominaga said. “We had to quarantine in our program, but we still worked hard. We have good teammates, and we worked to come here to win a championship.”
While it took some time for Ranger to find its footing, Brown said Tominaga emerged as a valuable X-factor who could change games with his 3-point firepower.
“You’ve always got a weapon,” Brown said of Tominaga. “He can (shoot) as deep as he has to. He’s had games where he’s had 11 threes in a game. He doesn’t just shoot, now. If you watch him, he really is active on defense. He’s got his hands up, he’s moving, he gets to the boards.
"He does a lot of things besides just shooting. He’s going to be a good player for Nebraska.”
Tominaga was one of the best 3-point shooters in the junior college ranks. He’ll get even more experience this summer while representing Japan at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in the 3x3 Basketball event.
But his 6-foot-2, 176-pound frame remains one of the biggest questions about how much of an impact Tominaga could make at the next level at Nebraska.
“He’s just got to get a little stronger and more physical and those type of things because sometimes those things hurt him a little bit,” Brown said. “He’s got a lot of work to do, but he’s up for it. He’s going to be up there this summer, and I know the coaches up there well, and they’re going to put him in a plan to do the things that he needs to get better at.
“But he’s got a tremendous work ethic. I don’t care where you’re at – if you’ve got a guy who can shoot, he can help you in some respect.”
Tominaga is well aware of the challenge that awaits when he arrives in Lincoln this summer.
Just like the player he models his game after and honors with his No. 30 jersey, Tominaga also knows precisely what he can bring to the Huskers to make an immediate impact next season.
“A shooter, like Stephen Curry,” he said. “I know it’s the Big Ten, and it’s a good team, so I’m trying to help the team with shooting. I’m so excited to play there.”