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Building title team a ‘wonderful experience,’ says Ryukyu GM

by Ed Odeven

Two days after the Ryukyu Golden Kings captured the bj-league title in the team’s second season, general manager Tatsuro Kimura reflected on the significance of this achievement.

“What a wonderful experience it is to build a franchise from scratch and go all the way to the top of the league,” Kimura told The Japan Times on Tuesday. “Not many people can experience (this) and I am fortunate to have this kind of opportunity.”

The Golden Kings had a 10-34 record in their first season. In the 2008-09 season, they went 41-11 in the regular season, beat the Rizing Fukuoka in the first round of the playoffs and then overcame a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the Western Conference final on Saturday, getting a 50-point effort from regular season- and playoff-MVP Jeff Newton to knock off the three-time defending champion Osaka Evessa, his former team. And they capped a storybook season by defeating the Tokyo Apache in Sunday’s championship game.

Like an architect putting together the finishing touches on a blueprint for a house, Kimura said the entire team came together to produce a championship.

Ryukyu made point guard Naoto Takushi the No. 1 selection in the 2007 bj-league draft and chose forward Bryan Simpson, a high-energy backup, in the same draft. Both had increased productivity this season for the much-improved Golden Kings.

What’s more, Kimura noted, shooting guard Shigeyuki Kinjo, who was signed before the team ever played a game, blossomed into a dependable scorer, as evidenced by his 5-for-5 effort from 2-point range and 6-for-6 shooting at the charity stripe on Sunday.

Other pieces to the championship puzzle included coach Dai Oketani, the former Oita HeatDevils coach, and frontcourt standouts Newton and Anthony McHenry, all of whom joined the squad in the offseason.

“Everything turned out in the right way,” Kimura said. “I am just thankful all of my guys did great jobs.”