Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Star Burns a man without a team

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Sixth man extraordinaire Draelon Burns is a man without a team.

The DePaul University alum parted ways with the Ryukyu Golden Kings after his contract expired following the team’s fourth title-winning season ended in May by beating the Toyama Grouses 86-7.

Now, just weeks away from the launch of the new B. League, with 18 teams in the first division and 18 more in the second division, Burns is patiently waiting to find out if he’ll be back in Japan, where he first made his mark during the Yokohama B-Corsairs’ inaugural season (2011-12).

Despite his sustained excellence in Japan for two elite teams, as of Wednesday night, Burns had not received one offer from any of the 36 B. League teams in the first or second divisions, The Japan Times has learned. But with three bj-league championships on his resume, Burns is one of the premier players in Japan in the 21st century.

A proven clutch player, the 194-cm Burns thrives in the spotlight. He has a knack for making key steals, blocks, rebounds, assists and baskets when the game is on the line.

Case in point: Burns drained the game-winning shot in the Eastern Conference final against the Niigata Albirex BB in May 2013, sending his team into the title game against the Rizing Fukuoka. A year later, he was an instrumental force in Ryukyu’s run to a championship.

Coming off the bench, Burns provided instant energy and an offensive spark for the Golden Kings during their latest championship season.

Ryukyu opted to also not re-re-sign bruising big man Evan Ravenel, an Ohio State alum, who was the MVP of the final bj-league Final Four.

Team president Tatsuro Kimura did not respond to multiple email inquiries about the two star players.

Meanwhile, Burns told The Japan Times he is staying in shape as he anticipates his next opportunity to play pro ball this season.

“I don’t know where I’ll be next year,” Burns told The Japan Times. “I’m just waiting and staying ready.”

Do-it-all forward Anthony McHenry, a marquee performer and leader on all four title-winning teams, remains the face of the franchise and is returning to the club as it aims for great success in the new league. McHenry has been with the Okinawa-based club squad since 2008.

New opportunity: The Rizing Fukuoka have added big man Fumihiko Aono, 37, to their coaching staff as an assistant and he will be on the active roster, it was announced by the third-division team on Monday.

The 210-cm Aono competed for the Levanga Hokkaido last season. He was with the NBL club from 2014-16. Before that, Aono suited up for the Wakayama Trians (2013-14) and their predecessor, Panasonic (2001-13).

Staying in Kyoto: Veteran forward Kevin Kotzur has finalized a deal to play for the Kyoto Hannaryz for a third straight season, the team announced on Tuesday.

The 202-cm Kotzur was the bj-league’s fourth-leading rebounder (12.3) last season.

More moves: Former Tsukuba Robots bench boss Donte’ Hill has been hired to coach the Vietnamese League’s Danong Dragons, asia-basket.com reported on Wednesday. . . . The Tokyo Excellence have added 208-cm center Ryan Stephan to their roster for the upcoming season in the B. League second division, according to asia-basket.com. Stephan averaged 25.6 points and 11.4 rebounds a game for NCAA Division II school Colorado Mesa in the 2015-16 campaign and tied the school record with a 45-point performance.

The Shiga Lakestars have complete a one-year deal with veteran swingman Yosuke Sugawara, it was announced on the team’s website on Tuesday. The 186-cm Sugawara, who turns 33 on Sept. 25, has seen time with the JBL’s Rera Kamuy Hokkaido and the bj-league’s Ryukyu, Osaka Evessa and Gunma Crane Thunders in his lengthy career.

Meanwhile, the first-division Kawasaki Brave Thunders recently secured the services of 203-cm post player Ryan Spangler, a University of Oklahoma product, for the upcoming season, asia-basket.com reported.

Spangler played for the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA’s Orlando Summer League in July, appearing in two games and getting limited minutes (5.0 per game) while averaging 1.0 points and 1.5 boards.

The big man who donned No. 00 for the Sooners was a key contributor for the team that reached the NCAA Final Four this past season.

During the Orlando Summer League, he spoke to The Norman (Oklahoma) Transcript about the transition to the pro game, acknowledging the adjustments one has to make are a big challenge.

“Every step, you play better people,” Spangler told The Norman Transcript, reflecting on the summer league. “In college, you think you’re playing really good people. And then you go to the pros, and it’s better people. So, you’ve just got to get accustomed to it.”

He added: “I got better every year at OU and learned some different things. Now, I’m just going to have to carry that forward.”

Spangler transferred to OU after starting his collegiate career at Gonzaga, a perennial top-25 program under bench boss Mark Few.

Countdown: The inaugural B. League season tips off in just seven weeks, with the first game — Alvark Tokyo vs. Ryukyu Golden Kings — set for Sept. 22 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

Feedback: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp