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Nara takes Yamashiro with first pick in expansion draft

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Expansion squads Bambitious Nara and Aomori Wat’s took their first steps in piecing together their rosters for the 2013-14 season on Wednesday.

The Bambitious chose 167-cm point guard Takuma Yamashiro, who put 7.6 ppg in 50 games on the board for the Saitama Broncos last season, with the No. 1 pick in Wednesday’s expansion draft.

With their second selection, Nara drafted 190-cm forward Jumpei Honda, a 24-year-old who averaged 1.6 points in 29 games for the Shiga Lakestars last season.

The Wat’s made veteran forward Daisuke Takaoka their first pick in the expansion draft. The 31-year-old averaged 2.6 points in 52 games for the Sendai 89ers last season.

A guard/forward 10 years his junior, Makoto Sawaguchi was Aomori’s second expansion selection. He scored 3.6 points in 50 games for the Iwate Big Bulls in 2012-13, his second season with the club. Sawaguchi broke into the bj-league at age 18 with the Akita Northern Happinets in 2010.

The expansion draft preceded the rookie draft.

In the rookie draft’s first round, the Bambitious made Nara Prefecture native Taishi Kasahara the first pick. The 23-year-old, 188-cm guard scored 8.6 ppg and grabbed 162 rebounds in 30 games for the JBL2′s TGI D-Rise last season.

The No. 2 pick went to the Shinshu Brave Warriors, who picked 183-cm guard Dai Suzuki, 22, who hails from Yamagata Prefecture.

With the third selection, the Sendai 89ers grabbed guard Yasuhiro Wada, a native of Chiba Prefecture. And rounding out the first round, the Shiga Lakestars chose forward Shuto Mizoguchi, a 25-year-old from Fukuoka Prefecture.

Aomori did not have a first-round pick.

Nara drafted 169-cm guard Tatsuya Suzuki with the top pick in the second round. He attended Takushoku University.

Five more players’ names were called in the second round before the proceedings ended, with commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi meeting and greeting each player along the way.

Guard Takato Hara, who competed in the 2012 FIBA 3×3 World Tour, was picked No. 2 by the Wat’s. The Tokai University alum is suiting up for the IBL’s Nippon Tornadoes in the spring-summer season, averaging 15.4 points in eight games through June 7.

Then Shinshu took guard Masamune Tate, a 25-year-old Gifu Prefecture native.

Guard Fumiya Sato went No. 4 to the 89ers. The 22-year-old local youngster began practicing with the team in March.

The Niigata Albirex BB decided to take guard Ryota Kato, still 19, with the fifth pick. The 181-cm teenager went to Niigata College of Technology.

The Kyoto Hannaryz made the final selection, taking 184-cm guard Yusuke Masuda. The 23-year-old attended the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture.

Fourteen teams didn’t select a single player in the two-round draft. Instead, individual team tryouts will be another option those teams use to fill roster spots for the upcoming season, which tips off in October.

Teams can also make early-entry signings to add players at the midway point of the season. This also gives players a chance to prove themselves for the season’s stretch run, essentially a prolonged tryout before the playoffs commence.

Other players, fresh out of college, spend time as so-called trainee players, participating in practice to get a team’s attention before getting drafted or signing free agent deals.

To recap: In all, 14 players went in the two-round draft, and the aforementioned four in the expansion draft. That averages out to less than one player drafted per club in the 21-team circuit.

Words of wisdom: Bill Cartwright gave the commencement address at Prologue Early College High School in Chicago last Friday. The school gives students a second chance with a GED program.

In a broadcast interview with WBBM News Radio sports director/morning anchor Josh Liss before the event at the school, Cartwright, who took over a 5-19 Osaka Evessa team in January and led it to a 17-11 finish, was asked what message he would give to the students.

He responded by saying, “You’re not bounded by anything,” Cartwright said. “You’re not bounded by thought. You’re only bounded by what you believe that you are. . . . You can only really hit what you aim at.”

The former Chicago Bulls bench boss admitted in the radio interview that he is looking to return to coaching in the NBA.

Summing up his time with the Evessa, who haven’t made an official announcement about Cartwright’s future with the team, in the season’s second half, the longtime NBA center told Liss he was able to get the struggling squad “back on track.”

New challenge: After leaving the Oita HeatDevils, who reneged on their financial obligations last fall, veteran guard Matt Lottich began working for NCSA Athletic Recruiting as a head scout in January. He’s based in Chicago.

“I chose to work at NCSA because we are in the position of helping young athletes achieve their dreams of competing at the collegiate level,” Lottich is quoted as saying on the NCSA website. “Playing basketball at Stanford is an important part of who I am and really shaped the person that I am now. I want to make sure that everyone who is qualified to play and compete in college gets the opportunity to do so.”

Lottich, who helped the Osaka Evessa capture three straight championships in the bj-league’s infancy (2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08), has always exuded confidence in his teammates. From years of observing him on the court, this much was certain: He was one of the league’s smartest floor leaders and had an innate ability to see the ebb and flow of the game at an elite level.

The NCSA provides services for sports ranging from baseball, basketball and football to lacrosse, track and field and volleyball.

This statement on the NCSA website helps explain Lottich’s current responsibilities: “The NCSA was founded in 2000 to help student athletes and their families navigate the cutthroat, competitive, and often confusing world of college recruiting. Our team of former college athletes, coaches and scouts, our network of 99 (percent) of American college coaches, and our custom technology and tools give you the edge you need in the most important game of your life.”

Around the league: The Kyoto Hannaryz announced head coach Honoo Hamaguchi, who has led the team to back-to-back Final Four appearances, will return to the sideline for the 2013-14 season.

Hamaguchi is the bench boss in league history to be in charge for his team’s season-opening game in each of the past eight seasons. He coached the Sendai 89ers for six seasons before taking over in Kyoto. . . .

Hernando Planells, who coached the Ryukyu Golden Kings during the team’s inaugural 2007-08 season, was promoted to assistant coach for the Duke University women’s basketball team last week. Planells spent last season as the team’s director of relations.

His new position involves coaching the guards and serving as one of the program’s two recruiting coordinators.

Planells is a former NBA scout and Maine Red Claws (NBA Development League) head coach.

Schedule released: The league’s ninth season will tip off on Oct. 4 as Oita plays host to Ryukyu in a Friday series opener. On Oct. 5, the following matchups are on the docket: Aomori vs. Iwate, Akita vs. Hamamatsu Higashimikawa, Niigata vs. Sendai, Gunma vs. Saitama, Osaka vs. Nara, Shimane vs. Shiga and Takamatsu vs. Fukuoka.

The defending champion Yokohama B-Corsairs, meanwhile, will face the visiting Shinshu Brave Warriors on Oct. 12 in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The Tokyo Cinq Reves, a second-year club, won’t play a home game until the season’s third week.

The format will be 52 games per team for the sixth straight season.

Did you know?: Golden Kings standout Narito Namizato is playing summer ball for Los Angeles Loop in the Drew League.

The California weekend circuit is celebrating its 40th anniversary of competition. The 14-week season started in May and continues until mid-August.

Feedback: Got a story idea about the bj-league? Send an email to edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp