Basketball / BJ-League | BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Johnson rips Shiga management after release

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

After being shown the door following just 12 games with the Shiga Lakestars, 2014-15 regular-season MVP Kejuan Johnson reflected on the team’s decision.

Johnson insisted that he’s been made “the scapegoat” for the Lakestars’ inconsistent play.

Coming off their first Final Four appearance since the team was established in 2008, the Lakestars take a 7-5 record into this weekend’s road series against the Oita Ehime HeatDevils.

“I have definitely been made the scapegoat,” Johnson told The Japan Times on Wednesday, a day after his release.

He scored one point, and only played 11 minutes, on Sunday against the defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, when Shiga lost its second straight game and for the third time in four games.

Johnson left the Lakestars as the team’s third-leading scorer (14.5 points per game).

He led the bj-league in scoring last season (23.8) and steals (2.7) and was third in assists (4.9) while playing for the Sendai 89ers, and helped the Tohoku-based team set a franchise record in wins (37).

“It’s a surprise to me, teammates and others who I’ve been contacted by around the league,” Johnson said of his release. “I feel I was never allowed to play my game.

“The few times I was able to play my game I had great numbers. Even if you look at my numbers now, they are still good despite being disrespected, mistreated and ignored several times.

“Throughout all of that I’ve been nothing but professional,” the Long Beach State product added.

Johnson is tied for sixth in the league in assists (4.3) and is one of the top rebounding guards (6.5) in the 24-team circuit. He scored in double figures in 10 of 12 games. He had 20-plus points in four straight games, starting on Oct. 16, when he logged 40 minutes of court time in a 24-point, 15-rebound, four-assist, one-steal performance.

What’s more, he attempted 22 more free throws (56) than anyone else wearing a Lakestars uniform this season; he sank 13 more of them (38 in all) than both Jeff Parmer and Julian Mavunga.

Now, he’s ready for a fresh start after the disappointment of playing for Shiga.

“I just want to move on from this nightmare and find another team to start fresh with,” he told this newspaper. “I want to thank all of my teammates, fans and others who have reached out to me and been supportive after finding out this news.”

Key acquisition: The Sendai 89ers this week finalized a contract with power forward Terrance Shannon, Kahoku Shimpo reported.

The Virginia Commonwealth University product made a major impact for the Fukushima Firebonds last season before a season-ending knee injury in February. He played in 34 games, averaging 14.5 points and 11.6 rebounds, the third-best output in the league.

League accolade: Akita Northern Happinets guard Shigehiro Taguchi was named the Lawson/Ponta MVP after two strong all-around performances against Shinshu last weekend.

In the series opener, Taguchi had 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block. In the rematch, he scored a season-high 27 points, buried 5 of 8 3-pointers and contributed seven boards and five assists.

Taguchi is averaging 15.9 points per game.

Perimeter marksmen: Kanazawa’s Yusuke Kodera leads the circuit in 3-point shooting accuracy at 52.8 percent (19 of 36), followed by Aomori’s Nile Murry at 49.2 (29 of 59) and Kyoto’s David Palmer at 48.7 (19 of 39).

Palmer is also shooting 60 percent from inside the arc (30 of 50) and 90.5 from the free-throw line (19 of 21).

Upcoming schedule: Weekend action begins on Friday with Hiroshima vs. Shimane. A day later, here’s a list of series that will tip off: Iwate vs. Fukushima, Akita vs. Niigata, Toyama vs. Shinshu, Gunma vs. Tokyo, Saitama vs. Sendai, Yokohama vs. Aomori, Osaka vs. Kanazawa, Fukuoka vs. Takamatsu, Oita vs. Shiga and Ryukyu vs. Kyoto. The Hamamatsu-Nara series starts on Sunday.