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Nara’s Chapman gets off to fast start for expansion team

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Each season brings new standouts to Japan, what with nonstop expansion since the league’s inception in 2005.

There were only six teams at the time. Now there are 21, which has created a plethora of new opportunities for Japanese and import players to compete at the pro level here.

Bambitious Nara guard Joe Chapman is among the new standouts this season.

Playing for the expansion club, which is winless in four games, Chapman is averaging 16.3 points while providing veteran leadership for coach Koto Toyama’s squad.

Chapman, who attended Marquette University like Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade and current Iwate Big Bulls forward Lawrence Blackledge, has also proven right away that he’s a dependable outside shooting threat.

He’s made two or more 3-pointers in all four Nara games, including 6-for-10 in the season opener against the Osaka Evessa on Oct. 5, when he finished with 25 points. He also drained four 3s in the rematch a day later. All told, he’s shooting 14-for-34 from beyond the arc.

While the 29-year-old Chapman has made an instant impact for the Bambitious, Toyama has remained positive despite early setbacks this season. He said in post-game comments to reporters on Sunday, after a 77-63 loss to the visiting Oita HeatDevils in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, that he was frustrated the team didn’t win at home, but he said that “even compared to yesterday (the team) has to step up steadily.”

He also said this: “I want (the team) to continue to step up.”

The 193-cm Chapman, Wade’s teammate at Marquette, began his pro career in 2006 in Colombia, followed by short stints in Mexico and the Czech Republic over the next two seasons. In 2008, he returned to Mexico for a second season, then found a home with the British Basketball League’s Newcastle Eagles from 2009-13. He earned BBL MVP honors for the 2011-12 season, averaging 20.2 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 36 games.

“Everyone talks about Joe’s offense, but he takes great pride in his defense, and his leadership has really helped us this season,” Newcastle player-coach Fab Flournoy told BBC Sport in May 2012.

“He’s an extra voice for us, and he steps up and does whatever we need him to do.”

Reflecting on his MVP season, Chapman summed it up this way in a wide-ranging interview with The Undersized Basketball Blog: “Well, we had a veteran team and we had a lot of motivated players. You put those two together and it makes for a special year. Personal success comes with team success.

“I was able to win two MVP awards in this country, but it came from our team success. You can’t have one without the other.”

Asked about his time at Marquette playing with Wade, Chapman told the aforementioned website earlier this year that “I’ve known Dwyane a long time going back to high school. We all knew he was gifted right away. Some people are talented and some people are gifted and he is one of the special ones. . .”

In addition to his all-around skills, Chapman’s perseverance has also been a defining characteristic throughout his basketball career.

Listen to his explanation to The Undersized Basketball Blog:

“Well, I have had five major surgeries in my life, all on my left leg which is my jumping leg, so when I was 14 my mother gave me Larry Bird tapes instead of Michael Jordan tapes. I broke my leg in three places at the age of 14 and had to learn how to be just as effective below the rim.

“Almost two years ago, I tore my Achilles and had to refine my game again with my post-ups and attacking from angles.”

One to watch: Tokyo Cinq Reves guard Yuji Ide scored 34 points in a season-opening win over the Ryukyu Golden Kings on Saturday in Okinawa. The 25-year-old buried six 3-pointers in an eye-opening performance. He played for the Shimane Susanoo Magic last season, but was not a primary contributor.

Ide was held to eight points in a Sunday loss.

New assignment: Rashaad Singleton, a former Oita HeatDevils and Sendai 89ers center, has signed a contract to play for Morog in the 10-team Libyan League for the 2013-14 season.

Singleton had agreed to a deal to play for the Shimane Susanoo Magic this season, but the contract was voided. It was learned he missed a deadline last season to take a blood test before signing a deal with the Gunma Crane Thunders, and the league imposed a one-year probationary period for him to be eligible to play here.

Instead of waiting for a potential opportunity to open up in the spring in Japan, Singleton has opted to resume his career in the North African nation, which has been ravaged by waves of violence and instability in the aftermath of strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s death in October 2011.

Singleton was unavailable for comment for this story.

The 213-cm Singleton is a solid shot blocker and low-post player. He began his collegiate career at the University of Georgia and wrapped it up at Division II Florida Southern.

NBL vs. BJL: The Osaka Evessa faced the NBL’s Hyogo Storks in a scrimmage on Saturday in Osaka, winning 82-63. Hyogo’s scheduled series against the Wakayama Trians was postponed until Jan. 18-19 after the team was unable to secure a home venue, a basketball source said.

Hyogo played under NBL import rules, meaning it had one import on the court in the first and third quarters, and two apiece in the second and fourth.

For Osaka, bj-league rules were in place, and the Evessa had two imports on the court in the first and third quarters and three apiece in the second and fourth.

The exhibition was held at Sumiyoshi Sports Center, with the teams using the NBL’s Molten ball in the first half and a Spalding ball, the bj-league’s model, in the second half.

Osaka employed a starting five of Dillion Sneed, Haruyuki Ishibashi, Yosuke Sugawara, Kevin Galloway and Naoto Nakamura.

Backcourt experience: With Jun Nakanishi, Akitomo Takeno, Cohey Aoki and Satoshi Ishitani, among others, dividing minutes at the guard positions, Rizing Fukuoka coach Mack Tuck has experienced veterans to call on to step into the backcourt.

At 3-1 the Rizing have relied on the quartet’s contributions to helped set the tone for the team.

Nakanishi, who joined the now-defunct Tokyo Apache in 2005, is averaging 11.3 points per game, and his former Apache teammate Aoki, the lone seven-time All-Star in league history, is contributing 8.3. Takeno checks in at 9.0 ppg and Ishitani, who has played for the Rizing since 2008, is averaging 5.3.

Solid start: Guard Verdell Jones III, a smart pickup by the Oita HeatDevils last season after the team’s financial meltdown broke up a quality team (one that started off with a 9-4 record), is averaging 23.0 points through four games.

The 24-year-old is a cornerstone player for the new-look HeatDevils under third-year coach Yukinori Suzuki. He’s one of the league’s most explosive players.

Jones has made 23 of 26 free-throw attempts and grabbed 31 rebounds to date. He’s also shooting 33-for-50 (66 percent) from inside the 3-point arc.

In succession, he’s also posted these numbers:

*Game 1: 23 points, seven assists, three blocks, two steals.

*Game 2: 29 points, five assists, four steals.

*Game 3: 23 points, six steals, four assists.

*Game 4: 17 points.

With Jones igniting his team, the HeatDevils improved to 2-2 after sweeping the Bambitious Nara. They opened the season with a pair of blowout losses to the Ryukyu Golden Kings.

As a college senior, Jones suffered a torn ACL while at Indiana, but has kept his sights set on trying to reach the NBA by taking the long road to stardom as a non-drafted player, according to published reports.

Saitama’s primary weapon: John “Helicopter” Humphrey was a one-man scoring machine for the Saitama Broncos on Sunday, scoring 47 points and knocking down an impressive 10 of 16 3-pointers in a loss to the Toyama Grouses.

Last season, when Saitama went 15-37, Humphrey was the top scoring option. It remains to be seen if the team will have a balanced scoring attack under new coach Takatoshi “Big Bashi” Ishibashi or if Humphrey alone will carry the scoring load. Saitama is 1-3 to date.

Around the league: Center Marcus Cousin, who played for the Kyoto Hannaryz last season, was waived by the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. . . .

Jeral Davis and Thomas Kennedy have formed a solid one-two punch for the Shimane Susanoo Magic in the frontcout. The 216-cm Davis, who led the league in blocked shots in each of the past three seasons, is averaging 18.3 ppg, with 50 rebounds and nine blocks through four games. Davis has four double-doubles in the books. He is in his fourth season with Shimane.

Kennedy, coming off a title-winning campaign with the Yokohama B-Corsairs, has increased his scoring output in each of the Magic’s four games, from 12 to 17 to 21 to 22. The 201-cm forward is averaging 18.0 ppg.

Upcoming schedule: For Saturday and Sunday, here are the weekend’s matchups: Aomori vs. Niigata, Toyama vs. Sendai, Shinshu vs. Nara, Saitama vs. Yokohama, Tokyo vs. Akita, Hamamatsu vs. Fukuoka, Shiga vs. Ryukyu, Shimane vs. Kyoto and Oita vs. Osaka.

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