Hiroaki Kozai is one of the key players of the Japanese wheelchair basketball national team. While he recently played the Champions League Final Four with the RSV Lahn-Dill and will soon be preparing for the World Championship in Hamburg, he took the time to answer the Rollt. editorial team a few questions.
Hiro, the upcoming World Championship will be in Hamburg this year. You played for the BG Baskets in Hamburg before. How is it for you to play this big event in your old “living room”? How do you feel about coming back to Hamburg for a couple of days?
It is a special place for me because Hamburg was my first team ever to play in Europe. I have so many memories there. I’m super excited to go back and play in Hamburg with the national team.
How do you personally prepare for the World Championships, how is the whole team preparing and what are your goals for the Worlds in Hamburg?
Right now, I am trying to get ready for the worlds with my RSV Lahn-Dill squad. My teammates are very talented, and practices are at high level. I’m working on my basic individual skills in every practice. The quality needs to be much higher than now by this summer.
As you all know, Japan is hosting Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. It is going to be the biggest event for us. We are trying to increase the individual skills level and understanding of basketball even more than ever. Our goal is to qualify for the final 4 in Hamburg.
One last question: You played your first season for RSV Lahn-Dill. How do you like it in Giessen / Wetzlar and how was the season with your new team? Please give us a short review on the last season.
This club is awesome. The players are really competitive, and at the same time, they are great teammates as well. We care about each other, trust each other. So far it has been a great experience for me playing for RSV Lahn-Dill even though we are a new team. We have new coaches, new players and new systems on the court, but I would say we are very successful this season for a first-year team. Although we lost to RSB Thuringia Bulls badly in the Bundesliga playoffs, however, we won the Pokal, and qualified for the Champions Cup final 4.
Hiro, thanks for your time and good luck for the upcoming World Championship!
Text: Annika Aul | Photocredit: Uli Gasper