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Jun 22, 2018 - 01:28 AM

Slam Dunk: Team Sannoh

Sannoh from district Akita is the Champions team with the very best players, all possessing tremendous skills. It's believed that this year's Sannoh has become even stronger than last year's that beat Kainan in the semifinals with 30(!) points. Please also note that last year's Kainan was probably even stronger than Maki's current team. Reigning Sannoh has been IH champions for three consecutive years.

Sannoh has always been the top team of Japan and hence the greatest challenge to all other teams. Despite their successes and their superior strength the players have a great mentality. They are very sportsman like and never underestimate their opponents. Shohoku was a team nobody had heard of, but they didn't underestimate them at all. The night before their memorable match up they watched the video tape of Shohoku's distrct games several times to analyze the team, and then they even practised against former Sannoh players, imagining them as Shohoku players.

The Sannoh players are all well trained, physically strong and are capable of playing many different strategies.

In the first half they played man-to-man defense against Shohoku. In the second half they started off with full court press to enable a 24-point lead! Miyagi was the one to break this strategy with his tremendous speed and nice dribbling. They used the full court press again in the last minutes of the game trying to totally break down Shohoku.

This team is very all round: it has an amazing defense and a very strong offense with superstar Sawakita who never lost one-on-one game plays, center player Kawata who has the experience of a guard and power forward as well. Sannoh has long range shooter Fukatsu, the mighty ace player Sawakita and center Kawata who seems unbeatable under the board. Moreover, Matsumoto is also a very skilled player who could have easily been the ace player if Sawakita was not in the team.

They have a great variety of attacks: fast break, give & go, isolation, etc. Their rebounding powers are ensured by their specialist Nobe and also Kawata.

In contrary to Shoyo this team did not mentally break down when losing their great lead on Shohoku. The team spirit is very high and the players won't let themselves lose focus.

Sannoh's coach is the young Doumoto, who despite his age seems a very experienced and calm man with great strategies. I think he only made one miscalculation: letting Mikio play against Sakuragi who beat the younger Kawata brother in every way.

Weak points:
This team basically has no weak points. The bench players are strong as well so that the team won't be relying on only one or a few players. Hence, Sannoh does not share Shohoku's major problem being the weak bench.

If we really have to name weak points, we can mention that Sawakita is easily distracted: in the first half his coach even exchanged him early and put him on the bench for his lack of focus. However, he has never failed the team on the executive moments. Captain Fukatsu has trouble defending short but fast guards such as Miyagi, we could see that at some point in the game he could only foul Miyagi to stop him. However, he has not really lost to Miyagi.

As you can see, it's hard to point out any true weaknesses in this team, simply because this team doesn't have any.

So why did they lose to Shohoku (79-78)?
Shohoku is of course a great team and very well balanced, not solely depending on one player. But seriously, I think even Shohoku can't say that they will win the match for sure if they had to play it again. It was the moment, the superb (hidden) skills of the Shohoku players and the never giving up mentality that put them through.

I don't think another team would have the powers to come back from 24 points behind. There's no team with such an amazing shooter as Mitsui who needs only a split second to hit a 3-pointer even when he's out of balance, there's no team with such a speedy point guard as Miyagi, there's no team with such an ace player with all the qualities to lift the team (okay, I give Sendoh some credit here) and there's no team with a player like Sakuragi. Sakuragi is able to deliver an unpredictable performance that exceeds even his own powers. But moreover, there's no other team that has all of these factors combined! Add the (mostly) reliable Akagi and you've got yourself a fantastic team.

Sakuragi surely played an important role in this tremendous game, especially at the end. However, this victory would not have been possible if they were missing any one of the base. It's often said that Miyagi is not such a great player, but I believe he's the perfect point guard for Shohoku. And let's not forget it was his speed and great play that broke the full court press of Sannoh. Mitsui arised from the death to hit crucial 3-pointers and Rukawa rose to another level to compete with Sawakita.

The last two scores were from Rukawa (assist Sakuragi) and Sakuragi (assist Rukawa). So I think it's a combination of factors on that day.

#4 Fukatsu Kazunori
3rd year
Point Guard
180 cm

Fukatsu is probably the best point guard of Japan. His tremendous sight on the game and the ability never to lose his calm make him a true leader of the team. He possesses a great long range shot and very nice passes. His defensive abilities are strong as well, allowing him to stop even A-class players such as Maki. He only experiences difficulties against short, speedy guards like Miyagi.

#5 Nobe Masahiro
3rd year
Power forward
198-200 cm (estimated by AnimeAnalyze)

He does not stand out for scoring abilities, but is a great rebounder. Because his team already has several scoring players, he's allowed to focus on rebounding. Sakuragi is probably the first opponent who beat him on rebounding with his great timing and unbelievable jumping ability. (His teammate Kawata is the other one who beat him.)

#6 Matsumoto Minoru
3rd year
Shooting Guard
184-185 cm (estimated by AnimeAnalyze)

Matsumoto has all the great features of an ace player and he probably would have become Sannoh's ace, if it wasn't for Sawakita. Like most Sannoh players he is very all round and is a great defender as well as scorer.

A remarkable moment of him is the scene right before Mitsui fights back and hits 3-pointers while he barely has strength to stand: Mitsui keeps asking him "Tell me, who am I?" and Matsumoto just thinks Mitsui has gone crazy.

#7 Kawata Masahiaka Bald Gorilla
3rd year
190 cm

In his rookie year Kawata was just 165cm and played on the position of guard. But then within a year he grew 25cm taller and became a power forward. So he has the experience of a guard, power forward and center, making him an extraordinary and very skilled center. While most centers only have scoring powers under the board, he can also fire a mid range shot.

Akagi is considered a top center of Japan, but Kawata beat him quite easily (or so it seems). He knew that the Shohoku center only had a limited area from which he could score and was able to keep him from scoring. Kawata is probabaly the best center; I give him more credit than Meihou Kogyo's rookie Morishige, as he has an arsenal of offensive possibilities and he has an overwhelming winner's mentality.

#8 Ichinokura Satoshi aka Forbearing Man
Shooting Guard
172-174 cm (estimated by AnimeAnalyze)

The defense specialist of the team who was one of the starting five against Shohoku. His task was to defend Mitsui and disable the 3-pointers of the Shohoku Shooting Guard, but Mitsui still managed to score three 3-pointers in the first minutes of the game. Ichinokura defended even harder and successfully exhausted Mitsui.

Ichinokura is called the "Forbearing Man". He is able to keep up with the toughest trainings while the other star players would quit. He once felt stomach pains during a school exam, he managed to hold on to the end of the exam and was then brought to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed appendicitis.

#9 Sawakita Eiji aka No.1 Highschool player
2nd year
Small Forward
186-187 cm (estimated by AnimeAnalyze)

Sawakita is the No.1 highschool player with no doubt and also very popular with the girls. He is a very all round and truly amazing player, who has not lost a one-on-one match up. His defense and offense are both very strong. Even Sendoh admitted he could not beat this amazing player, who can dunk, shoot from short range, mid range as well as long range.

The first gift his father Tetsu gave him was a basketball, even though he was just a baby. His father later bought him a basketball rim for in his room, but Sawakita improving incredibly fast got bored very soon wanting a new challenge. He grew up with basketball playing one-on-one with his father. Beating his father became his next goal, which he finally reached in his junior high years.

Sawakita's basketball years had become quite boring, because of the lack of worthy opponents. In junior high he got beaten up by his team mates because he said that playing basketball with them was so boring. Sannoh recognized the talent in him and invited him to their team in his highschool years, where he played with the best players of the country. But that also meant that he still had no strong opponent to defeat.

In his second year of highschool he decided to go to America after the IH championships, to find a new challenge. He learned the finger-roll to avoid the defenses he was going to face in America among such tall players. He was glad to hear about Rukawa who had the same playing style and similar personality. He found it necessary to beat this young seedling before he would become a threat in the future. Rukawa described his defense as perfect, and we know his offense is more than perfect.

Sawakita's only weakness is his lack of focus at times. However, when the team needs him he will stand up and carry the team as an ace player should. After Mitsui's resurrection decreased the gap he delivered a great performance to increase the lead again. He has never let his team down and is able to hit crucial points at the critical moments. He hit a jump shot in the last minute to put his team on a one point lead (78-77). So his teammates have 100% faith in him.

I think there's no doubt that he is stronger than Rukawa and Sendoh, but I have to say he does not have such a cool attitude as Rukawa or Sendoh, and he cries very easily...

# 15 Kawata Mikio aka Meat chop
1st year
Power Forward, Center
210 cm, 130 kg

Masashi Kawata's younger brother was brought in the game after Nobe hurt his wrist in his attempt to stop Rukawa's dunk. His specialty is using his great body mass to get under the basket, turn around and score. First Sakuragi had a lot of trouble stopping him but Akagi taught him to lower the core of his body instead of just pushing with muscular strength. Sakuragi applied this advice and also figured out that Mikio knew only this one technique having no scoring abilities away from the board (just like Sakuragi before), and successfully beat Mikio.

He is in contrary to his brother a very mellow guy who also has a lot of respect for his brother and the seniors. He often apologizes to his brother, sometimes even before he has done anything wrong.

Doumoto Goro
Head coach

Doumoto is a calm and clever strategist who gets full respect of his team. He in return has a lot of respect for his players, fully trusting their abilities and mentality. He probably only made one miscalculation that cannot even considered a mistake, when he let Mikio play against Sakuragi in order to let him build up experience and self confidence.

He knows well how to stimulate his players and perhaps more importantly how to keep them down to earth and focused. He teaches them never to underestimate any team nor any player, so that Sannoh always plays at their best.

Sawakita Tetsu (original name: Sawakita Tetsuharu)

Eiji's father is a great basketball fan who introduced basketball to his son at a young age. When he found out Eiji's great love for the game he moved to a place outside the city where the new house would have a basketball court in the back yard. At this court he taught Eiji everything he knew about basketball.

This cheerful guy knows his son very well and supports him following his dreams in every way. He also recognizes the similiarities between his son and Rukawa. He agrees that Eiji should defeat this rookie before leaving for America.