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Fukushima Firebonds draft forwards Kanno, Masuko

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Building a team from scratch, is a step-by-step process. Each new player is a piece to the puzzle.

The Fukushima Firebonds, an expansion team for the 2014-15 season, made forward Shota Kanno the No. 1 pick in Friday’s bj-league rookie draft.

The 22-year-old forward hails from Fukushima. He is a 187-cm, 83-kg alum of Fukushima Technical High School and Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai. He also was a Sendai 89ers trainee player this past season, working out with the team.

The Tohoku-based franchise, which announced earlier this week that Hiroki Fujita has been hired as the first coach in team history, is the league’s lone expansion entry for the upcoming season, raising the total number of teams to 22. Thus, the Firebonds automatically received the first pick.

Following the expansion pick, two regular draft rounds were open for all teams to select players. The overwhelming majority of teams, though, opted to not draft players. Instead, individual team tryouts are a preferred way to secure new Japanese players. It’s a cost-cutting tactic, with nondrafted players often receiving lower salaries in past years than drafted players.

In the first round of the regular draft, the Shiga Lakestars chose 185-cm forward Yuki Suzuki. The 23-year-old out of Daito Bunka University High School is from Aichi Prefecture.

The Akita Northern Happinets followed the Lakestars and picked guard Yoshifumi Nakajima, who saw limited action in nine games for the NBL’s Wakayama Trians in the 2013-14 season. The 176-cm Nakajima attended Meitoku Gijuku High School in Kochi Prefecture.

The second round featured only three drafted players.

To open the round, the Firebonds selected 186-cm forward Takumi Masuko, a 23-year-old Saitama Prefecture native. He went to Teikyo High School in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The Oita HeatDevils then chose guard Reo Bando, who has competed for the Shizuoka Gymrats, an American Basketball Association traveling squad. The 22-year-old Osaka native stands 187 cm and weighs 75 kg.

The Takamatsu Five Arrows made the final pick of the draft, selecting 22-year-old forward Kazuki Yamashita, a Kanagawa Prefecture native. The 182-cm Yamashita is a Jinsei Gakuen High School and Kansai University alum.