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Aomori acquires big man Williams from Takamatsu

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

After 50 defeats in 52 games during the 2011-12 season, the Takamatsu Five Arrows’ rebuilding project included a newcomer in the middle, Paul Williams.

Without much fanfare in the mainstream media, the veteran big man played an integral role in the team’s improved performance over the past two seasons, when coach Kenzo Maeda’s club went a combined 43-61, but extended its streak of non-playoff campaigns to five.

Williams, a St. Bonaventure University (New York) product, will now embark on a new challenge, taking his polished low-post game to the Eastern Conference. He was traded to the Aomori Wat’s for an undisclosed amount of cash, it was announced by the league office on Monday.

The Wat’s went 27-25 in the regular season and qualified for the playoffs as an expansion team. Coach Koju Munakata’s squad now adds a durable player who’s been a productive performer for two seasons in Japan.

Williams averaged 13.6 points and 11.2 rebounds (fifth-best average in the league) and swatted 64 shots in 52 games last season. The 208-cm center converted 53.8 percent of his shots from the field.

One of his best efforts of the season: On Oct. 6, 2013, he had a 12-for-15 shooting effort in a 24-point, 14-rebound game against the Rizing Fukuoka.

Williams was the league’s December MVP. He averaged 111.5 points and 13.9 boards in eight games, and Takamatsu went 6-2 in that span.

New boss in Nara: Ryutaro Onodera was named Koto Toyama’s replacement as Bambitious Nara head coach.

The Bambitious, who went 19-33 as a first-year franchise this past season, made the announcement on Tuesday.

Toyama is the Shiga Lakestars’ new sideline supervisor.

The 32-year-old Onodera worked last season as an assistant coach for the Saitama Broncos, who had a league-worst 5-47 record.

He has not previously been a head coach in the bj-league. Onodera was the bench boss for the International Basketball League’s Nippon Tornadoes in 2013, filling that role for the short-season squad from May to August.

In a news release issued by the team, Onodera called it a “great honor” to be appointed as Nara’s new coach, saying he’s grateful for the opportunity. He said the support of the entire team staff, volunteers, boosters and sponsors is vital for the team next season.

Finished in Shimane: Point guard Koki Yabuuchi, one of the original Shimane Susanoo Magic players, signed a free agent deal with the Five Arrows for the upcoming season.

Yabuuchi, 29, had been with Shimane since 2010, when the team entered the league.

The Osaka native appeared in 50 games for the Susanoo Magic last season, averaging 9.0 ppg. He was second on the club in assists with 203, 12 behind leader Edward Yamamoto’s total.

On the move: Veteran guard Joe Chapman has joined Shimane after playing one season for the Bambitious.

The Magic announced the acquisition on their website Thursday.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to further my career with Shimane,” said Chapman, a Marquette University product.

“I’m looking forward to turning Shimane back into a playoff team.

“(I) can’t wait for the next chapter of my journey to begin.”

The 29-year-old Chapman appeared in all 52 games for Nara in its inaugural season. He averaged a team-best 16.2 points per game and dished out 163 assists. He knocked down 150 3-pointers and provide valuable leadership on and off the court for the Bambitious.

Chapman drained at least one 3-pointer in all but two games, a reminder of his consistency and perimeter-shooting skills.

Staying put: Coaches Tomoya Higashino and Munakata are returning to the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix and Aomori, respectively, it was recently reported.

For Higashino, it’ll be his second full season at the helm. (He replaced Ryuji Kawai during the 2012-13 season.)

In related news, Osaka Evessa bench boss Shunsuke Todo, who led the Western Conference team to a 24-28 record in 2013-14, will be back for a second season in charge.

The expected announcement was made by the Evessa on Tuesday.

Waiting game: Neither Bob Nash, who led the Toyama Grouses to a 42-10 regular season and the franchise’s first Final Four appearance, nor

James Duncan, who orchestrated the Rizing’s second-half resurgence, has been officially announced as returning men in charge for the upcoming season.

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