The Toyama Grouses have boosted their roster with the addition of shooting guard Yu Okada as they prepare for their first season as a B. League first-division squad.
Toyama made the announcement on its website on Wednesday.
The Grouses earned a championship runner-up finish in the bj-league’s final season, falling to the Ryukyu Golden Kings in the title game in May at Ariake Colosseum.
Okada gives Toyama another accomplished Japanese perimeter scoring, teaming up with bj-league icon Masashi Joho.
Like Joho, Okada has spent his entire pro career in the bj-league. He joined the expansion Takamatsu Five Arrows in 2006, helping the expansion club make an improbable run to the title game during that inaugural season under then-coach Motofumi Aoki.
A Shiga Prefecture native, the 33-year-old Okada played for the Five Arrows for four seasons, then moved to the Shiga Lakestars (2010-12) and the rival Kyoto Hannaryz (2012-14) before returning to Shiga.
For the B. League’s first season, Okada said in a statement, “I am honored to play for the Toyama Grouses.”
At this stage of his career, he added that he’s pleased to have the opportunity to have a fresh start with a new team.
Okada averaged 15.8 points in 55 games, including the playoffs, last season. He sank 152 3-pointers. He collected 92 steals.
During the 2009-10 season, Okada became the first Japanese in bj-league history to finish in the top 10 in scoring. He delivered 19.0 points a game for the Five Arrows. He was No. 2 in steals (2.3) in the league that season.
In a 2009 interview with The Japan Times, former Osaka bench boss Kensaku Tennichi, who guided the Evessa to three straight championships, summed up Okada’s offensive skills this way: “(He) can shoot the ball very well and he also has a great eye to pass the ball to the open man.”
The next season, then-Ryukyu guard Tsubasa Yonamine offered his thoughts on what made Okada one of the elite Japanese players in the league.
“He ranks among the best 10 in the scoring category and he can knock down off-balance shots or tough shots,” Yonamine, now with the Kanazawa Samuraiz, told The Japan Times in a phone interview. “It’s not only shooting, but also he has a keen eye to find the right open players. I think that makes him unique.”
Grouses coach Bob Nash’s team opens its season Sept. 24 against the visiting Niigata Albirex BB.
Veteran addition: Shooting guard Takuya Kawamura, who made a name for himself as a standout scorer in the JBL and NBL over the past decade, will suit up for the Yokohama B-Corsairs in the B. League first division.
The B-Corsairs, who captured the bj-league title in the 2012-13 season, recently made the announcement.
Kawamura, 30, has played for the OSG Phoenix, Link Tochigi Brex, Wakayama Trians and Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins.
The 193-cm veteran was just 20 when he suited up for the Japan national team at the 2006 FIBA World Championship. Days before the host nation played its tournament opener against Germany in Hiroshima, Kawamura told reporters that his favorite all-time NBA players were Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Reggie Miller, Larry Bird and Scottie Pippen.
Name change: After nine seasons in the bj-league, the Rizing Fukuoka modified their name for the B. League’s inaugural campaign. The third-division team is now known as the Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka.