Sunday’s four-game showcase featuring a quartet of accomplished NBL and bj-league teams has a fancy title: the Dream Games.
For the coaches, though, the day’s on-court action is still all about evaluating their players and making preparations for the regular season.
The NBL’s Toyota Alvark and bj-league’s Akita Northern Happinets, championship runnerup squads last season, take the court for a 1 p.m. tipoff at Ota City General Gymnasium in the Dream Games opener.
The Happinets earned a pair of title-runnerup finishes over the past two seasons. For second-year head coach Makoto Hasegawa, Akita’s solid nucleus includes rising star and sharpshooter Shigehiro Taguchi.
Hasegawa made a smooth transition in taking over for Kazuo Nakamura, whose one-season sabbatical ended when he was hired to lead the Niigata Albirex BB.
Longtime bj-league fans can again get a closeup look at Alvark star Michael Parker, do-it-all forward for the Rizing Fukuoka and Shimane Susanoo Magic in past campaigns, as he begins his first full season in a Toyota uniform after making the switch from the now-disbanded Wakayama Trians last winter.
Meanwhile, Takuma Ito steps into the spotlight as the new Alvark head coach, replacing Don Beck, who after five seasons overseeing the Toyota men shifts to a new role for 2015-16: bench boss of the WJBL’s Toyota Antelopes.
In the second clash, scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m., the reigning NBL champion Aisin SeaHorses, guided by bench boss Kimikazu Suzuki, meet the bj-league’s 2014-15 title-winning Hamamatsu Higashimakawa Phoenix.
The Phoenix have retooled their lineup for the bj-league’s 11th and final season, acquiring macho forward Reggie Warren, the tone-setting leader who most recently made his mark for the Kyoto Hannaryz.
Other Hamamatsu newcomers, including, 35-year-old forward Lamayn Wilson, who attended Troy University before embarking on a pro career with previous stops in 10 countries, will need to get acclimated to coach Tomoya Higashino’s system. But a long 52-game season ahead awaits them, starting in early October.
And then, the final campaign will play out before the Japan Professional Basketball League, the new three-division circuit featuring NBL, bj-league and NBDL squads, ushers in a new era of basketball in the fall of 2016.
Building blocks: The expansion Kanazawa Samuraiz have acquired forward Marshall Brown for their first season.
The University of Missouri alum is a proven asset in Japan. He made an impact for the now-defunct Miyazaki Shining Suns (2012), Akita (2012-13) and Shiga Lakestars (2013-14) before suiting up for the Perth Redbacks last season, averaging 18.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists for the Australian club.
The Gunma Crane Thunders, meanwhile, have secured the services of frontcourt standout Patrick Sullivan, who had a two-year stint with the Albirex. He contributed 13.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in 51 games for Niigata in 2014-15.
High-flying forward Thomas Kennedy, a title winner with Yokohama in 2013 and a vital contributor for Niigata over the past two seasons, also joins the Crane Thunders along with big man Michael St. John, formerly with Bambitious Nara.
Tough competition: Veteran big man Gyno Pomare, who suited up for the Aomori Wat’s last season, and small forward Jamelle Horne, who took the court for the Toyama Grouses, are Panama teammates during the ongoing FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico.
In the 10-team tournament, Panama was assigned to Group A along with Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Brazil. Panama, went 2-2 in the first round, then dropped its next four second-round games through Wednesday.
Pomare is averaging 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds through eight games. He had six blocks against Brazil last Friday, and has 10 of Panama’s 21 blocks to date.
Horne has averaged 3.2 points in six games.
The tournament concludes on Saturday.
Miscellany: Former Akita Northern Happinets guard Yuki Togashi, 22, is the youngest player listed on Italian Serie A club Dinamo Sassari’s roster for the upcoming season. . . . Frontcourt dynamo Mo Charlo, one of the stars of Hamamatsu title-winning squad, is poised to join the NBL’s Hitachi Sunrockers, according to a source. … Mexico national team bench boss Sergio Valdeolmillos replaced then-sideline supervisor Bill Cartwright in May. Cartwright, the ex-Osaka Evessa and Chicago Bulls head coach, returned to the Osaka organization as an advisory coach.
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