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Isa to lead champion Ryukyu again next season

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

As expected, the defending champion Ryukyu Golden Kings have decided to renew coach Tsutomu Isa’s contract for the 2014-15 season.

The Okinawan native has been with the franchise since its inception in 2007, working as an assistant coach for six seasons before being promoted to bench boss prior to last season. The Golden Kings had a league-record 43-9 record in the regular season and captured their third championship, tying the Osaka Evessa’s league record for the most team titles.

Under Isa’s direction, Ryukyu’s dominating defense and efficient offense overwhelmed opponents. Now, more of the same is expected in the league’s 10th anniversary season.

The 44-year-old Isa’s contract renewal was made official on Monday. American assistant Keith Richardson, who joined the club in 2008, will also be back on the Kings bench next season.

On the same day, the team announced guards Draelon Burns, Narito Namizato and Ryuichi Kishimoto and forward Anthony McHenry have reached contractual agreements with the club for the coming season.

Looking ahead to the upcoming campaign, Isa said he’s reinvigorated by the work that awaits him and his team. “There are new challenges,” he said in a statement released by the team, “and the goal for the 2014-15 has not been achieved (yet). In order to accomplish it, I will devote myself to building the team from scratch.”

The Kyoto Hannaryz, meanwhile, finalized a two-year deal with coach Honoo Hamaguchi, who has guided the Kansai club to the Final Four in each of his three seasons at the helm. The Hannaryz are still vying for their first championship.

Hamaguchi, the only coach in league history to be in charge of a team on Day One of each season, received a two-year contract.

“I am please to take command in Kyoto next season,” said Hamaguchi. “I’ll try to do my best …”

Rebuilding mode: Coming off their worst season in franchise history (11-41), the Shimane Susanoo Magic are busy adding new players to the roster.

Just days after signing veteran guard Joe Chapman, the Bambitious Nara’s leading scorer (16.2 points per game) last season, the Magic have wrapped up the paperwork to bring in forward Edward Morris, it was announced on Monday.

The 203-cm Morris, a Pittsburg State (Kansas) product, has played three seasons in the bj-league. The 30-year-old averaged 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds and threw down 57 dunks in 48 games for the Tokyo Cinq Reves in 2013-14. He spent the two previous seasons with the Shinshu Brave Warriors.

Shimane coach Reggie Hanson believes both veterans are solid additions to the roster.

“Both of those guys bring a lot of versatility to the positions they play on both ends of the floor,” Hanson told The Japan Times. “They are hard-working, team-first guys that are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the team to win games.”

In related news, guard Shohei Nakama, who had been with the franchise since its establishment in 2010, will play for his hometown Hiroshima Dragonflies, the expansion NBL squad, next season. The 186-cm Nakama appeared in only 14 games this past season.

Staying put: Coach James Duncan, who orchestrated the Rizing Fukuoka’s impressive turnaround in the final months of the 2013-14 campaign, will return to the bench, the team recently confirmed in a news release.

The Rizing were 11-17 before the Canadian mentor took over as sideline supervisor. From February to April, Fukuoka went 15-9 and earned a playoff spot that seemed highly unlikely based on its abysmal start.

Duncan admitted there were adjustments that had to be made for the team to become successful down the stretch last season.

“(Now), I am looking forward to building a winning team,” he said in a statement, referring to next season.

Indeed, the seeds were planted for future success based on the team’s rapid improvement in February, March and April under Duncan’s watchful eye.

A player’s perspective: Asked his thoughts on new Shiga Lakestars assistant coach Asami Morita, the promoted female team manager, Lakestars forward Dionisio Gomez dished out this insight to The Japan Times: “I truly believe she has all the tools (for the job). She is a hard worker. The most important thing is that she has her goals set. I believe she wants to be a head coach some day. This is a great step towards that goal.

“She has good knowledge of the game. Now she is in a position where she can continue to grow. …”

On the move: Veteran guard Masahiro Kano, who played for the Rizing Fukuoka from 2007-14, has finalized a deal with Shiga for the upcoming season. Kano, who turns 30 on July 27, averaged 4.1 points in 49 games for the Rizing last season. He scored a career-high 5.5 ppg in 2012-13.

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