Just 157 centimetres tall, Natalie Nakase has never let her size stand in the way of her big dreams on the basketball court.
And now the 31-year-old American and first female head coach in Japan's professional men's league, has her sights set firmly on the NBA. If her dream comes true, it would be another breakthrough for women in sport as the National Basketball Association, the sport's premier league based in North America, has never had a female head coach or assistant coach.
There have only been some women in such positions in the NBA's minor league.
“I'm starting to realise that I have the responsibility of giving women hopefully a chance to see that they can do it too, even not in basketball,” the five foot two Nakase said. “It could be in a working field.
“Being a part of a programme in the NBA, reaching the highest level in your sport, I think, that's definitely a goal of mine,” said the former point guard from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Nakase has been piloting the Saitama Broncos of the Japanese league since November when she was promoted from assistant coach to replace Dean Murray when he was fired.
But things are not going all that well at the moment.
The Broncos lost 94-84 to powerhouse Osaka Evessa at home on Sunday to leave them languishing second from bottom in the league’s 10-team eastern conference with nine wins and 23 defeats in the October-April season.
But Nakase remains hopeful. “Our confidence is growing as we're playing close to some of these high ranking teams,” she said.
Her life as a coach began in the women's top league in Germany in 2008 after a knee injury cut short her playing career.