Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Sharpshooter Roby expected to give NeoPhoenix boost

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Richard Roby, a driving force behind the Akita Northern Happinets’ success over the past three seasons, brings his high-octane offensive output to the San-en NeoPhoenix for the launch of a new era.

When the B. League tips off later this month, the team formerly called the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, will have a proven go-to scorer in its lineup.

And Roby joins a team that defeated Akita in the bj-league title game in May 2015.

The NeoPhoenix are led by new coach Hiroki Fujita, who coached against Akita during his time at the helm of, most recently, the Fukushima Firebonds and Gunma Crane Thunders in the bj-league. Indeed, Fujita had a first-hand look at Roby’s ability to carry his team offensively and make important contributions on defense, including blocks and steals.

In short, the University of Colorado alum is one of the premier all-around athletes to play pro basketball in Japan over the past decade.

Roby, 30, averaged 19.9 points (No. 8 overall), 8.0 rebonds, 3.7 assists, 1.9 steals (No. 4 in the league) and 0.9 blocks per game for the Happinets last season. His older brother Kenyon Martin had a lengthy NBA career as a bruising power forward and retired in 2015.

Big addition: The Thunders have solidified their frontcourt with the recent signing of Abdullahi Kuso.

Set to play in the second division, Gunma has added a solid team leader whose impact helped carry the Iwate Big Bulls to the bj-league Final Four two seasons ago after previous stops with Ryukyu, Fukuoka, Miyazaki and Aomori.

The 206-cm Kuso attended West Coast Conference basketball powerhouse Gonzaga.

In the bj-league’s final campaign, the 32-year-old Kuso swatted 1.9 blocks a game, ninth-best average in the 24-team circuit. He also averaged 12.6 points and 10.9 rebounds.

“I want to thank the Gunma Crane Thunders organization for giving me this opportunity,” Kuso said in a statement. “I’m very excited about playing with new teammates in the B. League. I’m looking forward to this new challenge . . .”

Cartwright update: Bill Cartwright, who served as the Osaka Evessa’s advisory coach last season, will not be on bench boss Dai Oketani’s staff this season, the former NBA center and head coach confirmed in an email to The Japan Times.

This spring, Cartwright, 59, began working at his alma mater, the University of San Francisco, as director of university initiatives.

Cartwright’s NBA career began in 1979 as the New York Knicks’ first-round pick (No. 3) overall out of the USF. He was the starting center for the first championship three-peat (1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93) on the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls teams during a 16-season playing career before becoming a longtime NBA assistant coach. He also worked as head coach for the Bulls.

Update on Kurino: Jo Kurino, the No. 1 overall draft pick in the inaugural bj-league draft in 2005, has joined the Shimane Susanoo Magic.

The 36-year-old veteran forward most recently played for the Hiroshima Dragonflies.

On the move: Reggie Warren made his mark as one of the bj-league’s all-time greats. The star forward didn’t re-sign with the Phoenix. Instead, he will suit up for the Kumamoto Volters in the second division his season, the team announced this week.

Over the past decade, Warren, known for double-doubles on a consistent basis, starred for Takamatsu, Saitama, Kyoto and Fukuoka.

Hannaryz signing: Former Oklahoma State frontcourt standout Marcus Dove this week finalized a contract with the Kyoto Hannaryz.

The 206-cm power forward brings NBA Development League and overseas experience, with pro teams in Belgium, Taiwan, France and Israel, to Kyoto.

During his two seasons with the D-League’s Dakota Wizards (2009-10, 2011-12), Dove appeared in 84 games (58 stars) and averaged 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks.

Last season, he contributed 12.0 points for BCM Bravelines Dunkerque in the French ProA League.

Did you know?: Sendai 89ers point guard Takehiko Shimura is on the cover of the September-October issue of the Kahoku Standard Sports Magazine. . . . SportsNavi will provide living streaming of all first- and second-division B. Leauge games this season, it was announced on Sunday.

Feedback: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5