/ |

Ishizaki set to play in Germany’s second-tier league

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Japan national team guard Takumi Ishizaki will lace up his sneakers in the German Pro A League in 2011-12, German media reported this week.

Now, the 188-cm Ishizaki, who was named to the bj-league’s Best Five team last season, will bring his talents to the BV Chemnitz 99 backcourt. The team plays in Germany’s second-tier pro circuit. The German Bundesliga is the nation’s top league.

Ishizaki starred for the Shimane Susanoo Magic during their inaugural season and was viewed instantly by many as the top Japanese guard in bj-league history.

Two-time MVP Lynn Washington of the Osaka Evessa summed it up this way during an interview last season:

“He’s the best Japanese basketball player I’ve ever played with, the best in this league. I’ve played with other national team players, but by far he’s the best.

“He doesn’t turn the ball over. He knows how to find players on the fast break and in the halfcourt sets. And probably the most important thing that he does is that he knows how to finish over Americans, and that’s very rare here in Japan.”

Entering his prime, the 27-year-old Ishizaki averaged 12.5 points and nearly five assists (206 total assists, 100 turnovers) in 44 games (40 starts) for coach Zeljko Pavlicevic’s Susanoo Magic squad and helped the team advance to the playoffs after a 24-26 regular season.

He had season highs of 28 points and 13 assists while repeatedly displaying steady leadership and a willingness to take tough shots at critical stages of games.

Before joining Shimane, Ishizaki had played for the Toshiba Brave Thunders in the rival JBL. Last summer, he trained in Germany, so it’s no surprise he returned to the central European nation to pursue another playing opportunity.

On the move: After winning 40 of 46 regular-season games and their second consecutive bj-league title, the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix will feature several new contributors under first-year head coach Ryuji Kawai, who steps into the spotlight after Kazuo Nakamura moved on to become the Akita Northern Happinets’ new bench boss.

Gone are solid veterans Dzaflo Larkai and Ray Nixon. Larkai has signed a deal to play for the Ryukyu Golden Kings, while Nixon has joined the Shiga Lakestars in recent moves announced by those teams.

Larkai started 43 games at center for the Phoenix in 2010-11, his second season with the club, averaging 9.8 points per game.

Nixon, a forward, scored 11.8 points and drained 94 3-pointers last season.

The Golden Kings also announced that veteran forward Carl Mitchell will suit up for the Okinawa-based club this season.

Mitchell, who turns 32 in September, attended Division II Northern Kentucky, the same university former Sendai 89ers star and 2008-09 All-Star Game MVP Bobby St. Preux went to.

The 205-cm Mitchell has collected paychecks playing professionally in the CBA, as well as for teams in Venezuela, Mexico, South Korea, Hungary and, most recently, Canada.

Last season, Mitchell averaged 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Quebec Kebs of the Premier Basketball League.

Expansion announced: For the sixth consecutive year since the bj-league’s inaugural 2005-06 campaign, it has announced plans to add more teams.

Thursday’s announcement came as no surprise, and two new clubs will join the fold for the 2012-13 season.

Those teams will be based in Aomori and Gunma prefectures, according to a news release issued by the league office.

There will be 19 teams in the league this season, including four expansion clubs: the Chiba Jets, Yokohama B-Corsairs, Iwate Big Bulls and Shinshu Brave Warriors.

The Tokyo Apache, meanwhile, are on hiatus, not yet officially declared a defunct team.

Unlike other leagues that occasionally expand, the bj-league is now set for its seventh wave of expansion, going from six teams to eight, then to 10, 12, 13, 16, 20 (minus the Apache) and now 21. (A third team, possibly in Kagoshima Prefecture, could also be added for 2012-13.)

But the real question now becomes: Does anyone at the bj-league office believe there’s a way to end this never-ending expansion?

And does anyone with a conscience or clout in the decision-making process realize that quality control and the natural progression of a league are being sacrificed as more teams are added year after year after year?

Gunma and Aomori, though, will add to regional rivalries in Tohoku and near Kanto.