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Upcoming bj-league season set for Oct. 4 start

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The 2014-15 bj-league season, the league’s 10th, is set to tip off on Oct. 4.

Each of the league’s 22 teams, including the expansion Fukushima Firebonds, will play regular-season 52 games, according to a news release issued on Thursday.

With the addition of Fukushima, the Eastern Conference now has 12 teams. The Western Conference still has 10 teams.

In other league news this week, forward Lawrence Blackledge and the Iwate Big Bulls reached an agreement on a contract for next season. Blackledge, a Marquette University product, averaged 13.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.0 blocks in 52 regular-season games for Iwate, which had a franchise-best 40-12 record last season. Blackledge has been one of the league’s most versatile forwards since he arrived in Japan in 2010.

Meanwhile, as of 5 p.m. on Friday, all but three teams have officially locked up their head coaches for the coming campaign. Only the Akita Northern Happinets, Tokyo Cinq Reves and Toyama Grouses have not filed paperwork and released details to the league office, though Akita, the 2013-14 championship runnerup, has reported that Makoto Hasegawa will replace 73-year-old bench boss Kazuo Nakamura, who reportedly plans to step down and retire. Both Motofumi Aoki and Bob Nash have guided the Cinq Reves and Grouses, respectively, for the past two seasons.

An update on … Sek Henry: The University of Nebraska alum, who suited up for the Happinets during the team’s inaugural 2010-11 season, will play for Italian League (Serie A) club Enel Basket Brindisi next season, court-side.com, a global hoops website, has reported.

The 193-cm guard spent the past two seasons with AZS Koszalin in Poland. He averaged 15.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 18 games this past season, according to court-side.com.

In the spotlight: Tokyo forward Akihito Inoue will appear on the TV Tokyo program “Kekkon Hitokoto,” on June 30. The 47-minute broadcast begins at 11:58 p.m. The Japanese language variety show features recently married couples as guests, and Inoue and his wife are scheduled to discuss their life together.

On the move: Veteran guard Yosuke Sugawara, who spent last season with the Oaska Evessa, has joined the Gunma Crane Thunders, the Eastern Conference club announced on Friday.

For the Evessa, Sugawara averaged 8.5 points in 46 games, and led the league in free-throw shooting accuracy (89.6 percent). He played for the Ryukyu Golden Kings from 2008-10 and 2012-13.