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Six groups officially apply to join bj-league

by Ed Odeven

The bj-league received 10 offers from groups interested in being part of the league’s next wave of expansion, beginning on Nov. 1, 2007, and ending on Monday.

Six business groups officially applied to join the league, according to a press release. Those groups are from Chiba, Kanagawa, Nagano, Kyoto and Miyazaki prefectures, as well as one undisclosed team.

The bj-league, which began with six teams in the fall of 2005, will be comprised of 12 teams when the 2008-09 season tips off in mid-October, and the Shiga Lakestars and Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, who defected from the JBL, will make their bj-league debuts.

The bj-league plans to make a formal announcement in late August about which new group(s) will be accepted to join the league for the 2009-10 season.

Toshimitsu Kawachi, the bj-league commissioner, has stated in numerous interviews that in the future he wants the league to play an 80-game regular season schedule just like the NBA. Kawachi has also said he wants one team in each of Japan’s 47 prefectures in the future.

In other league news, Shigeki Maruoka has stepped down as the Takamatsu Five Arrows’ general manager. Maruoka, 56, worked for the team in each of the past two seasons, a time in which the Five Arrows reached the bj-league championship game in its first season and finished second to the Osaka Evessa in the Western Conference this past season.

In a busy month of player signings and contract expirations (as of Monday), there were several more announcements over the past few days.

Saitama Broncos forward Kazuki Hara became a free agent, as did Osaka Evessa shooting guard Daisuke Tamura and forward Han Jae Kyu.

Five Arrows forward Isaac Sojourner and a trio of Oita HeatDevils — guard Kohei Mitomo, guard/forward Osamu Shimabukuro and 38-year-old forward/center Tadaharu Ogawa — have also become free agents.

For the Ryukyu Golden Kings, forwards Han Dae Kyun, Bryan Simpson and Taira Yoshida and guard Tomoyuki Shinzato are now free agents.