/ |

Reed finding niche in Yokohama

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Shooting guard Omar Reed is one of the top newcomers in the bj-league season.

And for the revamped Yokohama B-Corsairs, fighting for a playoff spot under first-year coach Michael Katsuhisa, he has played a vital role since the start of the season.

In Reed’s first two regular-season games in a B-Corsairs uniform, he had a 17-point, 11-rebound effort and a 20-point, 21-rebound, three-steal outing on Oct. 12 and 13 against Shinshu.

It was a sign of things to come.

Week after week, Reed’s energy and all-around play have helped keep the defending champions around .500 during an up-and-down season.

“Omar’s versatility and ability to do many different things on the court are extremely important to our team’s success,” Katsuhisa told The Japan Times on Wednesday. “We look to him to be our glue guy. He can pass, he can shoot, he can be good in the pick-and-roll as the ball handler or as the screener.

“He understands the game, can see where rotations are coming from and how to make the right play.

“He has the potential to help Kenji (Yamada) quarterback our offense, and we need him to be more of a vocal leader so that he can do that. He is also one of the best rebounders in the league.”

Reed’s impact is significant and his desire to succeed is equally strong.

“When he is focused, he has been very good for us and has been hungry to prove himself in games,” Katsuhisa said.

While the team’s other foreign players — Wayne Marshall (Temple), Marcus Simmons (USC) and Marquise Gray (Michigan State) — competed for well-known collegiate hoops programs, Reed attended Bluefield College, a tiny NAIA school in Tazewell County, Virginia (population: 45,000).

The versatile 200-cm standout has not forgotten his humble roots in southwest Virginia.

“Basketball’s taken me places I’ve never dreamed about going,” Reed told the Bristol Herald Courier, a Virginia newspaper, in March 2013. “It’s been such a blessing to be from Tazewell and making it this far.”

The 26-year-old’s pro career has included two seasons in the NBA Development League (66 combined games for the Austin Toros in 2011-12 and Maine Red Claws in 2012-13) before arriving in Japan, plus stints with pro teams in Portugal and England.

Reed is the B-Corsairs’ second-leading scorer (16.9 points per game) and top rebounder (11.9, third-best average in the league).

Yokohama, 16-18 and tied with Aomori and Sendai for the sixth-best record in the 11-team East after splitting a weekend series against Tokyo, has 18 games remaining in the regular season — sink or swim time in the playoff race. Fourteen of those games are against teams tied or ahead of the B-Corairs in the standings — Shinshu, Toyama, Aomori, Iwate, Niigata and Akita. The B-Corsairs’ mettle will be tested.

“The season has shown flashes of promise as we’ve beat the best teams in the league, but we’ve lost to the bottom teams as well,” Reed told this newspaper Wednesday. “Injuries have played a large role and made it hard for us to be consistent without certain contributions every game. It’s taken us, Yokohama, over half the season to get a clear identity, but better late than never.

“We are getting healthy and working hard to make a strong push to close the season and climb in the rankings.”

Indeed the challenge will be there for Reed and his teammates to elevate their game and qualify for the playoffs, but this time without ex-coach Reggie Geary, who led the team to back-to-back Final Fours and the aforementioned title and now serves as the bench boss of the NBL’s Chiba Jets.

If the B-Corsairs can reach the playoffs and challenge for a third straight trip to the Final Four, they will need steady production from Reed, who has topped the 30-point level twice this season — 34 vs. Gunma on Nov. 17 and 31 against Fukuoka on Dec. 29.

So how does Reed feel he’s performed for Yokohama?

“I’m happy with my contribution to the team in my first bj-league season,” said Reed, who played three games for the Boston Celtics’ 2013 NBA Summer League team in Orlando. “I think I surprised a lot of people who had no clue who I was.

“My versatility has been a big attribute to fitting in with the style of play. One quarter I’m a guard, another I’m defending low-post players. It took awhile to adjust to everything but I try to be a consistent player and make the game easier for everyone else. I’m prepared to do whatever needed to lead the team into the playoffs.”

Iwate forward Lawrence Blackledge recognizes how important Reed is for the B-Corsairs.

“Omar is one of the tougher players in the league,” Blackledge told The Japan Times on Tuesday night. “He is a stat stuffer. He scores, rebounds, defends and always plays hard-nosed basketball.

“He is also a good person off the court. (I) got to hang out with him once or twice. Nice guy and great competitor.”

Around the league: Toyama’s Masashi Joho remains the league’s highest-scoring Japanese player (17.5 ppg, tied for seventh-highest average with Shinshu’s Patrick Sanders.). . . . Oita’s Taishiro Shimizu has logged a league-high 1,328 minutes. . . . Only Iwate has two players with 50 or more blocks in Gyno Pomare (59) and Blackledge (70).

League accolade: Sendai forward Wendell White was named the Lawson/Ponta Weekly MVP, it was announced on Wednesday.

White, a UNLV alum, posted double-doubles in two down-to-the-wire victories last weekend over Niigata, producing 22 points and 10 boards in the series opener and 14 points and 10 boards a day later.

White was the league’s regular-season MVP in the 2009-10 season.

Hamamatsu guard Jermaine Dixon received the February MVP award, helping the Phoenix win seven of eight games in the month and climb into second place in the Western Conference.

Dixon, a University of Pittsburgh product, averaged 20.1 points, 3.4 assists and 1.9 steals a game to secure the honor.

The Phoenix, meanwhile, have racked up victories in 12 of their past 13 games.

Upcoming games: The following series are on the docket this weekend, including the Oita-Fukuoka showdown, which begins on Friday.

The other series all tip off on Saturday and are as follows: Aomori vs. Akita, Niigata vs. Iwate, Shinshu vs. Yokohama, Gunma vs. Sendai, Saitama vs. Toyama, Tokyo vs. Shiga, Osaka vs. Kyoto, Shimane vs. Ryukyu and Takamatsu vs. Nara.

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