Basketball / BJ-League | BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Golden Kings to retire Newton’s No. 50

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Ryukyu Golden Kings will honor league legend Jeff Newton during their Nov. 7-8 series against the Rizing Fukuoka at Okinawa City Gymnasium, retiring his No. 50 jersey.

Newton, 34, will travel to Okinawa from his home in Atlanta for the festivities, the team announced on Thursday.

The former Indiana University standout played his final game in May 2014, the title contest against the Akita Northern Happinets, helping Ryukyu capture its third championship. He is the winningest player in bj-league history, his jersey number will be the first retired by the franchise, which entered the league in 2007.

Newton was the starting center on three Osaka Evessa title teams (2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08) in the league’s infancy. When he left Osaka, the balance of power shifted to the Golden Kings.

“I had the pleasure of being one of his coaches for 6 seasons and 3 of those titles,” Kings assistant coach Keith Richardson posted on Facebook Thursday night.

“I learned so much from him as a player and a great person,” Richardson wrote. “He always gave all he had, mentally and physically. Thanks for all you gave to Japan and Okinawa, Jeff.”

Former Kings coach Dai Oketani, who now guides the Evessa, also posted a message on Facebook: “Thank you for your loyalty. Nobody can reach 6-time champions. Much respect, Jeff.”

Building blocks: Every first-year franchise needs a first victory to set the stage for the future.

For the Kanazawa Samuariz, their historic first win came in their second game: a 73-68 bounce-back triumph over the visiting Kyoto Hannaryz on Sunday.

Kyoto entered this season with big expectations after setting a league record for wins (44) during the 2014-15 campaign under longtime coach Honoo Hamaguchi.

Kanazawa, meanwhile, entered the season with more modest goals, but made a solid first impression in their regular-season debut, losing 68-64 on Saturday.

For the Samuraiz, a Western Conference squad, Sunday’s victory was fueled by balanced scoring (six players had eight or more points, including Gyno Pomare’s team-best 18) and stellar rebounding (45-32 edge over Kyoto, including Pomare’s 19).

Post player Andrew Fitzgerald, a University of Oklahoma product, chipped in with 12 points in the series finale after putting 21 on the board in the opener. He was thrilled with the team’s triumph in the series finale.

“It was a great team win for us,” the 202-cm big man told The Japan Times. “But we really wanted to win this game for our great fans and city of Kanazawa.

“As a team we are going to build on the win against Kyoto. Our team confidence is really high, but we are humble and willing to work. It’s a long season so we are going to take it game by game.

“We are looking forward to our games this weekend.”

Pomare will be a key leader for the Hokuriku-based club. He has a deep knowledge of the league after previous stints with the Sendai 89ers, Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, Kyoto, Iwate Big Bulls and Aomori Wat’s.

In addition to Pomare, the Samuraiz have a nucleus of veterans with experience playing around the league, including forward Marshall Brown and guards Yuji Ide, Tsubasa Yonamine and Masato Tsukino.

What’s more, coach Yukinori Suzuki has been in the league since its inception in 2005. He starred for the Oita HeatDevils until 2011 before retiring and becoming head coach.

Now, given the opportunity to lead a brand-new club Suzuki is preaching the importance of defense to his charges.

Looking back at Sunday’s victory, Suzuki told reporters “defense led to victory.” He also praised the team’s supporters for their encouragement in Kanazawa.

NBA update: Former Yokohama standout Marcus Simmons played a minute in the Chicago Bulls’ preseason opener on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks. . . . Ex-Tokyo Apache big man Jeremy Tyler didn’t appear in the Houston Rockets’ exhibition opener on the same day against the Memphis Grizzlies. A day later, Tyler logged 15 minutes and had two points and six rebounds against the Dallas Mavericks.

Primary venue: The Yokohama B-Corsairs plan to use the cavernous Yokohama International Swimming Pool as the team’s primary facility — it can seat over 5,000 — for the 2016-17 B. League debut. Assigned to the first division, the B-Corsairs are required to have a main arena that can seat at least 5,000, according to the Japan 2024 Task Force blueprint for the new league.

To a man, the spacious Yokohama Pool has lousy accoustics and sightlines, and lacks the charm and intimacy of a normal-size basketball venue.

Upcoming games: Twenty-two of 24 teams are in action this weekend, with the following matchups: Iwate vs. Saitama, Sendai vs. Tokyo, Fukushima vs. Toyama, Niigata vs. Yokohama, Gunma vs. Akita, Shiga vs. Ryukyu, Kyoto vs. Hamamatsu, Nara vs. Osaka, Shimane vs. Kanazawa, Takamatsu vs. Oita and Fukuoka vs. Hiroshima.

New gig: Former Fukoka head coach James Duncan recently joined Taiwanese team Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor as an associate head coach.

Holm retires: Prolific rebounder Chris Holm, a mainstay in the bj-league for most of its history, has joined the George Washington University coaching staff as an assistant director of basketball operations.

He told The Japan Times on Thursday that he’s retired.

Holm, who turns 31 in November, reunites with his former University of Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan, who took over on the GWU sideline in 2011.

In August, Holm had finalized a deal to return to the 89ers for the current season, but changed his mind and quietly retired.

“It was a tough decision, but I wanted to get into coaching after I retired, I knew that much,” Holm told The Japan Times. “But I still had a year or two left in me to play, but when the opportunity came to get into coaching at such a high level along with it being for my old coach I couldn’t pass it up, so I had to go with the best longterm decision.”

At this new job, Holm will have a closeup look at GWU sophomore forward Yuta Watanabe at his new job. The 203-cm Watanabe had a solid freshman season, raising hopes about his future potential as a pro.

Holm suited up for Sendai (2008-11), Niigata (2011-13), Kyoto (2013-14) and Shiga (2014-15). He averaged a league-record 15.6 rebounds per game during the 2008-09 season.

Feedback: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp