LINCOLN — Rocking a scarlet T-shirt and sitting in front of a Nebraska basketball calendar, Keisei Tominaga introduced himself to the media Wednesday morning.
Tominaga, who came to Lincoln from Japan, waited nearly 10 months after his signing day to wear his new team’s colors. The pandemic delayed Tominaga’s appearance on the 3-on-3 Olympic basketball circuit and, as a result, his arrival in Lincoln. But now that he’s here, he’s embracing his new surroundings.
“I’m so excited to play here because it’s high level," Tominaga said. "Everybody is a good player.”
That includes Tominaga, the 6-foot-2, 176-pound guard whom coach Fred Hoiberg introduced as “the Japanese Steph Curry” when the Huskers signed him in November.
Tominaga's jump shot has always carried over, from Sakuragaoka Gakuen High (39.8 points per game) to Ranger College (16.8 ppg, 47.9% from 3-point range) to Team Japan (seventh at the Olympics in 2-point shooting at 36%).
The first thing Tominaga did when he arrived in Lincoln: Drain five consecutive 3-pointers in the practice gym.
“I want to help this team with 3-point shooting,” he said Wednesday.
And the Huskers could use him. Nebraska has ranked 268th and 189th in 3-point shooting during two seasons under Hoiberg.
Tominaga started shooting at around 2 years old on a home-made hoop in his hometown of Nagoya. His father played professionally in Japan for a decade and his mother played in the Japanese minors or “industrial leagues.”
Tominaga never played another sport, and he said Wednesday that he’s always been a good shooter.
In 2019, he earned a trip to Ranger, Texas, where he played basketball under former Kentucky and Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie. In some ways, Gillispie coached harder than he was used to — “he yelled at everybody,” Tominaga said — but he was more lenient in others, like compared to his high school coach's "chip rule."
Yes, Tominaga’s high school coach forbade his players from eating potato chips — but he didn't mind.
“I don’t really like chips,” Tominaga said. Not Doritos, sometimes Cheetos, but never frequently.
Tominaga has enjoyed his American experience, though. He was nervous when he first arrived in Texas because he didn’t speak English, but he picked up the language through conversations with teammates and learned he wasn’t so different.
Like him, they grew up loving Kobe Bryant. Curry, too. And of course, it didn’t hurt that he could shoot.
Now Tominaga speaks English “better.” He conducted Wednesday’s Zoom interview without an interpreter. Nebraska assistant Matt Abdelmassih sat next to him in case he needed help understanding a question, but he mostly didn’t.
He described his new teammates as “super high-level,” and he thinks his Olympic experience can help the Huskers win.
Tominaga's goals in Lincoln? To help the team, make the NBA “and I want a ring, of course."