Basketball / BJ-League

Kanazawa hires Suzuki

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Yukinori Suzuki, who guided the Oita HeatDevils for the past four seasons, was named the first head coach in Kanazawa Samuraiz history on Thursday.

The expansion team will make its bj-league debut for the 2015-16 season, the circuit’s final scheduled season before the launch of the JPBL, a three-tier entity consisting of 40-something NBL, bj-league and NBDL squads, a year later.

Looking at the next chapter of his basketball career, Suzuki acknowledged that “my job, of course, is to strengthen the team.”

In a team-issued statement, he also said “the team and the front office must work together” to build the Samuraiz.

The cash-strapped HeatDevils, ended a seven-season postseason drought in May, but finished 18-34 in the regular season for the team’s eighth straight losing campaign.

In four seasons, Suzuki compiled an 82-126 regular-season record.

Suzuki, 38, played in the backcourt for the JBL’s Niigata Albirex BB from 2001-05 before joining Oita. The next spring, he was named to the bj-league’s Best Five Team during its first season.

A three-time All-Star in the upstart circuit, Suzuki retired in 2011 and took over Oita’s coaching duties. The HeatDevils went 23-29 in the Kanagawa Prefecture native’s first season at the helm, followed by 21-31 and 20-32 seasons before the aforementioned 18-victory campaign.

Meanwhile, the HeatDevils are scheduled to be based in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, next season.

Aiming for the NBA: Forward Olu Ashaolu, who sank the championship-clinching shot with 3.1 seconds to play for the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix in the bj-league finale on May 24, is participating in Toronto Raptors’ two-day free agent minicamp, which started on Thursday.

The camp is in Toronto, the 27-year-old Ashaolu’s hometown.

He was born in Lagos and competed for Louisiana Tech and the University of Oregon before his pro career began in 2012.

Competing in the minicamp could boost Ashaolu’s chances to be picked to play in the upcoming NBA Summer League.

Ashaolu played for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2012 NBA Summer League. Current Hamamatsu coach Tomoya Higashino was an assistant for the Bucks at the camp.

The 200-cm Ashaolu averaged 14.9 points in 52 regular-season games this season for the Phoenix.