Since an 0-9 start this season, the Gunma Crane Thunders have made a dramatic turnaround.
They’ve gone 15-12 since that long losing streak, including an 84-71 victory over the visiting Saitama Broncos on Friday night.
Gunma (15-21) has won three consecutive games to climb into seventh place in the bj-league’s 12-team Eastern Conference standings. Longtime NBA assistant coach Charlie Parker, in his first season leading the Crane Thunders, has found a way to steer the team in the right direction.
Virginia Tech alum Carlos Dixon had a team-high 18 points for the Crane Thunders and Andre Murray, who went to Portland State, added 14 points, nine boards and five assists.
Gunma big man Melvin Ely chipped in with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks and veteran guard Kenya Tomori scored 11 points, while Yusuke Kodera had nine.
The Crane Thunders shot 21-for-38 (55.3 percent) from 2-point range.
Saitama (4-32), which dressed two foreign players, trailed 40-32 at halftime in Gunma Prefecture.
Gary Johnson paced the Broncos with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Yuki Sasaki had 14 points and Nyika Williams finished with 11 points and 11 boards.
Ongoing talks: Japan 2024 Task Force co-chairman Saburo Kawabuchi met with bj-league officials on Friday at the JFA House in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward.
Among those present were commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi and league president Hidemitsu Nakano.
This meeting gave both sides the opportunity to voice their opinions about sweeping changes planned for Japanese basketball, including a unified new league hierarchy that has been proposed for the 2016-17 season.
In a statement issued by the bj-league, Kawachi admitted “there are hurdles to be cleared.”
As the former J. League chairman, Kawabuchi was in familiar surroundings.
For the bj-league, now in its 10th season, published reports have stated that some officials of the 22 current teams have expressed anxiety about suggested changes, including arenas that have a seating capacity for at least 5,000 spectators.
In January, FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann and the task force set a six-month target to deliver a plan to merge the rival NBL and bj-league into a singular entity as part of an outline ordered by FIBA, which suspended the Japan Basketball Association in November for failing to do so, among other governance issues, last fall.
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