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With few players selected, draft becoming pointless

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The bj-league’s inaugural draft in June 2005 featured 26 players, including No. 1 overall pick Jo Kurino by the Oita HeatDevils. There were 102 players who participated in a league-organized tryout two weeks before the draft.

Among the notable league standouts who remain in the fledgling circuit and were a part of that draft: No. 4 pick Kazuya “J.” Hatano (Osaka Evessa pick; played for Shimane Susanoo Magic last season); No. 5 Jun Nakanishi (Tokyo Apache pick; starred for Rizing Fukuoka), No. 9 Taishiro Shimizu (Saitama Broncos selection; suited up for Oita HeatDevils) and No. 16 Kimitake Sato Niigata Albirex BB).

Teams have supplemented their roster with free-agent pickups since the league’s inception.

For instance, perennial All-Star guards Cohey Aoki and Masashi Joho of the Rizing and Toyama Grouses, respectively, were not drafted by their original bj-league teams, Tokyo and Osaka, but entered the league as free agents.

Despite nonstop expansion for a decade now — six teams in 2005-06, the league’s first season, to a planned 22-team circuit for the upcoming campaign, including the newest team, the Fukushima Firebonds — the annual draft’s gradual participatory decline is a sign of its growing insignificance.

After the 2005 gathering in Tokyo and before the league’s first games were staged, never again have as many players been picked in any of the subsequent drafts.

Case in point: In last week’s draft, six players in total were selected by 22 teams. The draft has became a non-option for most teams.

Instead, teams bring in guys for tryouts and circumvent the draft completely.

New teams no longer have the chance to pick up unprotected players from the rest of the league’s squads in an expansion draft, either. That’s been phased out.

In analyzing the facts, this is the bottom line: Pretending that the draft’s current format is viable (or necessary) is simply ignoring the reality of the situation.

So what’s the point of having a draft and inviting media to chronicle the narrative?

At the draft, no news has become the real news.

Therefore, it’s time to either require all teams to draft players or abolish it completely.

Locked up: The Iwate Big Bulls will bring back two-time, title-winning bench boss Dai Oketani for a third season at the helm in 2014-15, it was announced earlier this week. Iwate completed its best-ever season in May, going 40-12 and reaching the Eastern Conference playoff semifinals. …
The Sendai 89ers, who haven’t qualified for the playoffs since Bob Pierce took the team to the postseason tournament in 2012, announced coach Shuto Kawachi, coming off a 24-28 rookie campaign in charge, has been given a two-year contract extension.

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