/ |

Blackwell to become new coach of Evessa

by Ed Odeven

While attending Syracuse University, Ryan Blackwell played for one of NCAA basketball’s most successful coaches, Jim Boeheim.

Now, sources say the veteran forward is poised to become the second coach in Osaka Evessa history.

Blackwell, who turns 34 on Dec. 8, has played in the bj-league for the past four seasons. He was a solid contributor for the Sendai 89ers (2006-08) before joining the Evessa in 2009 and playing 20 games down the stretch.

A team announcement is expected within the next 24 hours.

It’s possible Blackwell will be a player-coach, a throwback to an early era.

A cerebral player who lets the game come to him, the 200-cm Blackwell has been one of the league’s top passing big men. He’s also a strong rebounder and a good post-up player, as well as a capable 3-point shooter.

Blackwell played in 48 games this past season, averaging 12.0 ppg. He came off the bench in 25 of those games.

The move leaves the Takamatsu Five Arrows as the only club with a coaching vacancy.

New address: Evessa shooting guard Naoto Nakamura has been traded to the Kyoto Hannaryz.

Nakamura’s playing time decreased dramatically last season. He was limited to 212 minutes playing time in 18 games after averaging 10.6 points per game in 2007-08.

In 2006-07, Nakamura joined the Evessa for the season’s final few months and helped the club win its second championship. During the next season, when Osaka won its third title, he buried 91 of 215 3-point shots. In 2008-09, he sank 89 3-point shots and averaged 8.6 ppg.

The Hannaryz have re-signed guard Taizo Kawabe, coming off a solid first season with the club (10.0 ppg). The team also locked up point guard Sunao Murakami and guard/forward Kyosuke Setoyama for another season.

Kyoto point guard Naoto Takushi, a two-time Best Five player, is now a free agent. He was seen as a negative influence in the locker room, an individual who lost motivation to hustle and stay interested in the game, according to several league observers. Backcourt mate Jun Iwasa is also a free agent.

Changes in Okinawa: Versatile guard Yosuke Sugawara, one of the bj-league’s most talented Japanese players, has left the Ryukyu Golden Kings and will seek opportunities in the United States.

Teammate Masashi Obuchi also traveled to the U.S. a few weeks ago to participate in the NBA Development League’s summer tryouts. No word yet if either played has received an offer.

The contracts of Golden Kings forwards Bryan Simpson and Kevin Steenberge and center George Leach have all expired.

Franchise cornerstone and big man Jeff Newton has received a new contract for the upcoming season. Guards Tsubasa Yonamine and Shigeyuki Kinjo have also been re-signed.

Fukuoka moves: A week after acquiring point guard Akitomo Takeno in a trade with the Niigata Albirex BB, the Rizing announced the retirement of fellow point guard Tsuyoshi Kawazura, who is 35. This could open the door for Takeno to receive significant playing time, something that was sporadic for him during his two-year stint in Niigata.

Fukuoka also opted to bring back coach Tadaharu Ogawa for a second season. The Rizing also re-signed two-time scoring champion Michael Parker, as well as Brazilian center Thiago Cordeiro and guard Masahiro Kano.

Sendai activity: 89ers forward Yoshihiro Tachibana, the reigning Slam Dunk Contest champion, will return to the Tohoku club next season. Veteran guard Hikaru Kusaka will also be back.

Other announcements: In a flurry of activity this week, other teams have been deciding which players will be brought back and which ones will not be issued new one-year deals.

For the Shiga Lakestars, they’ve opted to bring back center Hirotaka Sato and small forward Ryuichi Horikawa, the latter of whom has also played for Saitama, Osaka and Toyama.

The Albirex, meanwhile, have a quartet of foreign players whose contracts expired: center Paul Butorac, power forward Calvin Chitwood, small forward Antonio Burks and swingman Tyrone Levett.

The team has signed guards Takahito Saito and Ryo Narumi and All-Star forward Yuichi Ikeda. Saito, 25, has the potential to be the team’s floor leader for years to come.

Schedule released: The bj-league’s 2010-11 season will begin on Oct. 16, it was announced on Thursday.

On Oct. 16, the expansion Akita Northern Happinets will open their inaugural season against the visiting 89ers. The Miyazaki Shining Suns will begin their first-ever season on the same date against the visiting HeatDevils, while the Shimane Susanoo Magic, under former Japan national team coach Zeljko Pavlicevic, will play host to the Shiga Lakestars on Oct. 23.

The 52-game format, with two-game series on back-to-back days, remains unchanged, but the regular season will end a few weeks earlier — on April 24, to be precise.

The Apache and HeatDevils have not yet determined where they’ll play home games. The league’s other teams have released a list of venues they’ll play for the upcoming season.

* * * * *

Do you have a story idea about the bj-league? Send an e-mail to edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp