Kaede Rukawa is Sakuragi’s rival as well as almost his opposite; he is attractive to girls, skilled at basketball, and very cold and unfeeling. The only traits they share are that they are not academically inclined and good fighters. He regards Sakuragi as an idiot and both normally fight. Actually, he knows Sakuragi can put his talents to a better use, but is ashamed to see the immaturity with which he deals with things. His hobby is sleeping, and is usually seen asleep whenever he’s not on the court; he can even ride his bike while asleep often crashing with objects when doing so. Waking Rukawa from a nap is considered unforgivable, since he will almost automatically beat up the culprit. Unsurprisingly, he has also been in his fair share of off-court fights, but can hold his own. Rukawa’s goal is to be the best high school player in Japan, and he considers Sendoh of Ryonan to be his greatest rival. A fact being that he is often nicknamed the “super-rookie”, the “ace of Shohoku”, even.
Rukawa is extremely good at basketball, and possesses a wide range of skills to complement his height, athleticism and drive to win. Despite being merely a first-year high school player, he is the undisputed ace of Shohoku’s team. In the Kanagawa Interhigh Tournament, he was named one of the top five players, the only first year player so honored. He has managed to change the course of many games, such as when he single-handedly brought Shohoku back from a double-digit deficit against Kainan (Rukawa scored 15 straight points for Shohoku in 2 minutes and 5 seconds just before the end of the first half). However, his style was criticized as being too selfish, and he sometimes comes into conflict with his teammates for various reasons; this was one of the reasons why Coach Anzai refused to give him his blessing when Rukawa told him that he intended to go to the USA, and told him to become the best in Japan before he even thought of it. When he was outplayed by Sawakita during the match against Sannoh Technical, though, he realized what Sendoh reminded him as a challenge: To defeat Sendoh, Rukawa had to change his style and pass the ball. It was his pass that led to Hanamichi’s buzzer-beating shot, winning the match. Rukawa is subsequently named a member of the All-Japan basketball team.