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Players spread gospel in summertime


Players hone their skills on basketball courts near and far in summer months. They also lend a helping hand to youngsters who are learning the game.

For example, Tokyo Apache All-Star guard Cohey Aoki spent time in Nagano Prefecture last weekend at basketball clinics. Fellow All-Star guard Taishiro Shimizu of the Saitama Broncos has also joined Aoki at the events.

Photos posted on Aoki’s blog showcase the upbeat mood of the youthful participants, as well as the joy shared by the players, coaches and support staff.

Throughout Japan similar events are being held, involving school-age children at various team- and league-sponsored clinics. Players and coaches are taking time out of their off-season schedule to be goodwill ambassadors for the sport, and that’s a good thing.

Chalk it up as a win-win strategy for the players, who are helping raise their profile for the next generation of basketball fans.

In cities big and small, local newspapers, which are conveniently culled together online at 47news.jp, provide a telling sign that youth participation in summer hoop camps and clinics have become an active part of Japan’s summer sports culture.

Overseas basketball trips are another aspect of a sport with no true off-season. Darin Satoshi Maki, formerly of the Tokyo Apache and Oita HeatDevils, stayed busy last month while suiting up for the Rising Suns, a streetball team organized by Hope 81, a nonprofit grassroots organization involved in “basketball development, global poverty relief and environmental sustainability,” according to its Web site.

The capable floor leader, one of the top defensive guards in the five-year history of the bj-league, played for the Rising Suns in the Quai 54 streetball tournament in Paris.

“Maki was definitely attracting a lot of attention during our trip to Paris, knocking down shot after shot in the 3-point point shootout — finishing just one point away from the finals — then called on to help Quai 54 Dunk Contest Champion Guy Dupuy for his final dunk attempt, and being selected as a featured interview for the official Quai 54 DVD,” said Jason Hutson, an American expatriate who serves as a Rising Suns player, coach and organizer. “I think this experience helped him gain some visibility, especially outside Japan.”

Hutson also believes Maki, a free agent, would be a welcome addition for a bj-league club in the immediate future.

“As a top point guard in Asia over the past 10 years in China, Japan and Vietnam, the ‘Tru Ninja’ definitely has a lot to offer teams in the bj-league, especially those looking for veteran leadership and someone who can control the ball, set the tempo, etc.,” said Hutson. “He’s a ‘Derek Fisher’ kind of player, someone who doesn’t turn the ball over and can knock down clutch shots.

“Now after Paris, the challenge is to make sure people in Japan know about his efforts here in Japan. . .”

The Rising Suns’ 2010 squad also featured center Antoine Broxsie, who led the bj-league in blocked shots last season while playing for the Takamatsu Five Arrows, and Apache forward Kenji Hilke.

Player tryouts: The expansion Shimane Susanoo Magic, who will play their first game in October, are holding tryouts for prospective players on Aug. 11-12.

Players must be at least 18 years old.

Tryouts will be held in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

Visit the team’s Web site (www.susanoo-m.com/) for an application form.

The registration cost is ¥5,000.

For more information, call the Susanoo Magic’s office at 08-5260-1866 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Former Japan national team coach Zeljko Pavlicevic, an accomplished sideline supervisor in Europe for two-plus decades, is Shimane’s first-ever coach.

Officiating camp: There will be opportunities in the future for new officials to join the bj-league, and events such as the upcoming Next Level Officiating Camp can play a pivotal role in developing referees for future jobs.

Longtime NBA official Bennie Adams, who has been involved in officiating camps and clinics for two decades, will be at the Next Level Officiating Camp on Aug. 13-15 at Yokosuka Naval Base.

The three-day camp will feature classroom instruction and game officiating, as well as on-court observation by Adams.

The cost is $300 before July 31 or $350 after that date.

Send an e-mail inquiry to jasoabasketball@gmail.com or call 080-3467-7248 for application information.

Blackwell’s plans: In a recent interview with The Post Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., new Osaka Evessa coach Ryan Blackwell gave a hint about his coaching style for the coming season.

He told the newspaper that his experience playing under Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim prepared him well for the task ahead, especially on defense, where the Evessa will regularly employ the 2-3 zone.

“I got some tapes,” Blackwell was quoted as saying. “I’ll be mixing it up. But I’ll use the 2-3, especially against teams that have trouble shooting. I need to give Coach (Jim) Boeheim a call and pick his brain.”

Closing commentary: The league is not doing itself any favors by failing to make sure that Takamatsu Five Arrows have a functioning Web site during the summer.

For several weeks now, Takamatsu’s home page has been inaccessible. One cannot read basic information about the team’s past seasons and the upcoming season.

In this era, it’s absolutely necessary for a professional sports team to have its own online home page.

What’s the big deal?

Well, this not only deals a negative blow to the team’s fan base, it also turns off or delays the plans of potential sponsors, which the team desperately needs to attract.

It’s simply inexcusable that the league hasn’t found a way to have the Five Arrows’ Web site up and running during the dog days of summer, even if it designated an intern to handle the elementary task of posting news releases on the site just like the other teams all continue to do.

Takamatsu, which withdrew its bankruptcy proceedings before summer officially commenced, is now piecing together a plan for the coming season with a community coalition of sponsors.

It remains to be seen if that group has any realistic change of being financially viable in the long run. That said, the league has a duty to pay the Five Arrows’ Internet bill if that’s what the holdup is all about, or to simply collect the funds for it from the league’s other 15 teams.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, logic has rarely dictated the decisions made by the fledgling league.