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Nash set for second season at Toyama

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Toyama Grouses solidified their chance of being a quality playoff contender again next season by securing the services of head coach Bob Nash and veteran guards Masashi Joho and Takeshi Mito for the 2013-14 campaign.

The Eastern Conference, which had a team-record 35-17 record last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time, made the personnel announcements earlier this week. The trio’s return was expected as the Grouses look to build on their success from 2012-13.

“It is a great honor for me to once again serve as the head coach of the Toyama Grouses for the 2013-2014 season,” Nash said.

“I’m looking forward to the challenges that a new season presents, but confident that we will be successful because of the support and dedication of our players, Grouses management, staff, sponsors, boosters, volunteers and loyal fans.”

He added: “Let’s once again join together as one team and work hard to reach our goal of a championship.”

In working to bolster the team into a stronger community institution, Nash, an ex-NBA player and University of Hawaii head coach, emphasized a shared commitment.

“We are going to need our sponsorship and fan base support at an all-time high from the beginning to the end of the season,” he said. “Your support is vital to the success of our team and we appreciate each and every one of you. We can achieve great things together. . . “

Joho, who has played in the bj-league since the beginning in 2005, was Toyama’s third-leading scorer (13.6 points per game), and dished out a team-best 177 assists (one more than backcourt mate Takeshi Mito).

Mito scored 10.3 ppg last season. His quickness and high-energy style of play blended well with Joho’s explosiveness.

“I’ll play (for) Toyama next season again,” Joho wrote in a message posted on Facebook. “This is the first time I’ve played three years in the same team. Let’s win a championship.”

Joho made key contributions for the Osaka Evessa (2005-07), Tokyo Apache (2007-009), and Shiga Lakestars (2009-11) before finding a new home in Toyama.

Joho’s winning instincts and fearless demeanor have made him a Grouses’ fan favorite. By signing Joho in 2011, Toyama demonstrated it was serious about becoming a contender, which eluded the Hokuriku-based franchise in its first five seasons.

Player protection list: The league office released its player protection list on Wednesday, which keeps negotiating rights for the coming season’s contract between that player and team. In a sense, the players are barred from becoming true free agents while they are “protected,” thus limiting their chances of getting a contract from another bj-league club.

For the Eastern Conference, the protected players are Niigata’s Rodney Webb and Nile Murry; Toyama’s Jeremy Jacob, Angel Garcia and Ira Brown; Gunma’s Yuto Okumoto; Saitama’s John “Helicopter” Humphrey; Tokyo’s Ricky Woods; and Yokohama’s Takeshi Hotta.

In the Western Conference, the list includes Shiga’s Yusuke Inoue, Shelton Colwell, Daiki Terashita, Dionisio Gomez and Wayne Arnold; Kyoto’s David Palmer and Masaharu Kataoka; Shinshu’s Yasuhisa Hikino and Kazuya “J.” Hatano; Takamatsu’s Dexter Lyons; Fukuoka’s Julius Ashby, Justin Johnson and Josh Peppers; and Ryukyu’s Anthony McHenry, Yoshiki Yamashiro and Jeff Newton.

Around the league: Veteran forward Yamashiro and Morihisa Yamauchi, a rising backcourt standout, have agreed to basic terms of contracts for the coming season, it was announced by Ryukyu in a press released this week.

Yamashiro, a 105-kg forward, appeared in 11 games. He’s played for the team since its inception in 2007.

Yamauchi averaged 6.8 points in 52 games for the Kings, and was second on the team in 3-pointers made (62). He joined the club in 2011. . . .

The Saitama Broncos and 25-year-old guard Takahiro Misawa, who saw limited action for the Albirex in 2012-13, have agreed in principal to a one-year deal. Misawa averaged 1.6 points in 43 games for Niigata and had 33 assists and 29 turnovers. He is a former Toyama trainee player and also previously saw time with the Shizuoka Gymrats, an American Basketball Association team. . . . Fukuoka guard Jun Nakanishi will be back with the championship runnerup squad for a fourth season, it was announced on Thursday.

Ayako Ono, a member of the Tokyo Cinq Reves cheerleading squad, will suit up for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in the same capacity in the upcoming season.

More transactions: Veteran point guard Takehiko Shimura, the league leader in assists (6.3 per game) in 2012-13, will return to the Sendai 89ers for his sixth season with the club. Kyoto Hannaryz guard Yu Okada has also agreed to play for his current club again for the standard one-year contract. Okada appeared in all 52 games for the Hannaryz last season, his first with the club, and averaged 11.0 ppg. The Shiga Prefecture native turns 30 next Thursday. . . .

A coaching change is expected for the Osaka Evessa in the next few days, a league insider told The Japan+ Times. All signs point to Bill Cartwright, a former Chicago Bulls bench boss, not returning to the team.

Cartwright resurrected the struggling franchise, which was 5-19 before his arrival in January. The Evessa went 17-11 the rest of the way.

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