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Source says Kyoto set to join NBL for 2014-15 season

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Kyoto Hannaryz’s history will mark a landmark change in 2014.

That’s when the team will officially become a member of the NBL, the renamed JBL, departing the bj-league after its fifth season of existence, three more than the Chiba Jets, who bowed out for a spot in the Japan Basketball Association-backed circuit.

No official announcement has been made by the league or the team. But a source close to the situation told The Japan Times on Thursday morning that “Kyoto will stay one more year in the bj-league.”

The Hannaryz joined the bj-league in 2009, giving the upstart circuit a third franchise in the Kansai area along with the Osaka Evessa and Shiga Lakestars. (And the Bambitious Nara join the fold for 2013-14 as a first-year club.)Kyoto is coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances under coach Honoo Hamaguchi.

League spokesman Kentaro Umehara told The Japan Times on Thursday that he hadn’t heard details about the Hannaryz’s future plans.

Also Thursday, team spokesman Jun Takeda said by phone the Hannaryz haven’t made plans to defect.

For the bj-league, the loss of the Hannaryz would be a major blow to its dwindling credibility. For starters, the team makes a commitment each year to field a competitive team, and also has gone above and beyond most teams in promotions and business-side operations.

The Hannaryz even paid naming rights for 10 years for Hannaryz Arena, located near Nishi-Kyogoku Station.

In addition, a league with nearly no continuity in the coaching ranks — only seven of 21 teams will start the coming campaign with the same bench boss who was in that position to usher in the 2012-13 season — will lose Hamaguchi, one of the top coaches in league history, if he remains with the Hannaryz.

Hamaguchi is entering the final season of a three-year deal.

Evessa plans: Rebuilding and tweaking a team’s roster are natural acts for a team with a new head coach.

The Osaka Evessa, however, appear to be taking that approach to the extreme.

All reports indicate the team may have a roster that features zero returning players from the 2012-13 squad. New team president Motofumi Iguchi spoke recently about the desire to build a unified team that rebounds from an up-and-down 2012-13 campaign, one that started with Zoran Kreckovic on the bench (0-4 record), followed by Takao Furuya (5-15) and Bill Cartwright (17-11).

Is that a realistic goal?

Will massive roster turnover guarantee a second straight losing season for the three-time champion franchise that was a perennial title contender for the league’s first seven seasons?

Days after guard Shota Konno was picked up by the Shinshu Brave Warriors, the Evessa, who protected no players from last season’s roster, lost guard Shun Watanuki to the rival Kyoto Hannaryz.

Watanuki averaged 8.4 points in 52 contests and by season’s end had become one of the league’s most improved players. Cartwright, a former Chicago Bulls head coach, had a positive influence on Watanuki, helping him run the offense with greater efficiency and confidence.

Meanwhile, forward Taizo Kawabe, who chipped in with 5.6 ppg in 2012-13, joined the Shimane Susanoo Magic after one season in an Evessa uniform. Guard Masashi Obuchi also left the Evessa to play for the Gunma Crane Thunders, reuniting with ex-coach Ryan Blackwell.

The offseason exodus of Evessa players will continue at a slow pace as they resurface with other teams. Mike Bell, Rick Rickert, Dwayne Lathan and Nathan Walkup could be strong acquisitions for other clubs if they return to Japan.

The addition of veteran guards Yosuke Sugawara, Haruyuki Ishibashi and Naoto Nakamura will give the team experienced leaders, the latter two who have had success — competing for championships — with Osaka in the past.

Ishibashi will turn 40 on Dec. 3. He’s officially served as an assistant coach with the Shiga Lakestars (2008-10), while still filling his role a backup guard, so an added voice, a consigliere of sorts, for new coach Shunsuke Todo will be an important addition.

Cinq Reves update: Former Saitama Broncos head coach Kenji Yamane was named the Tokyo Cinq Reves’ new general manager, it was announced earlier this week. He’s spent the past several seasons as a head coach for the bj-league academy while also serving as a TV analyst.

The move reunites Yamane with Motofumi Aoki, the Tokyo bench boss, who worked as an academy coach during the 2010-11 season.

Yamane guided Saitama during the bj-league’s second season, 2006-07. The Broncos went 15-25. He was replaced by former NBA forward David Benoit on the bench.

HeatDevils add pair: Post player Devonne Giles and forward Gabriel McCulley have agreed to basis contractual terms for next season, the Kyushu-based club announced on Tuesday.

Giles, a Texas Tech product, played 55 games last season for KTP Basket Kotka in Finland, averaging 16.3 points and 9.4 rebounds His pro career has included stops in France, the Netherlands, and the CBA (for the Dakota Wizards).

While at Texas Tech, Giles competed in the Sweet 16 in March 2005. He played under Bob Knight, who also coached a pair of former HeatDevils, Mikey Marshall and Andy Ellis. Gilles turns 30 on July 21.

McCulley, 24, attended UTEP, where Tim Hardaway starred before a long NBA career.

The 201-cm forward competed in the Lithuanian League with Juventus in 2011-12 and for a short stint in 2012-13. He averaged 11.1 points in 28 games in 2011-12.

Phoenix aim high: The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix held their first summer training session on Monday, and Tomoya “Coach Crusher” Higashino told local media that he has high aspirations for his club.

Higashino told the Shizuoka Shimbun the team wants “to finish on top” again. Hamamatsu slipped to sixth last season (its first in the Western Conference) after back-to-back championships.

“Our goal is to recapture the championship and work together,” guard Shinnosuke Oishi was quoted as saying in the Shizuoka Shimbun

In the paint: Yosuke Maeda, Kenji Yamada and Seiji Kono of the Yokohama B-Corsairs participated in the Adidas-sponsored 3×3 tournament last weekend in Yokohama. . . . The Kumamoto Volters, an NBL expansion squad, has hired former Jets head coach Shinji Tomiyama as an assistant coach. The Volters also named American Norm deSilva, who has worked for the NBA Development League’s Utah Flash as an assistant coach, as the team’s bench boss. DeSilva worked for the Foshan Dralions in the Chinese Basketball Association in 2012-13 as an assistant before being promoted to acting head coach. . . . Daisuke Tamura, a veteran guard who averaged 5.9 points in 52 games for the Takamatsu Five Arrows last season, has joined the NBL’s Levanga Hokkaido. … The Hannaryz and NBL squad Link Tochigi Brex will square off on Sept. 10 in an exhibition game.

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