One day before the opening game of the B. League’s first season between the Alvark Tokyo and Ryukyu Golden Kings at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, the players and coaches were ecstatic, saying they are ready to put on a show the next day to usher in a new era of Japanese basketball.
“We, Ryukyu, have been preparing for this game dating back to when we were still playing in the bj-league,” Golden Kings shooter Shigeyuki Kinjo said at a news conference at the venue on Wednesday. “So we hope to give everything we’ve got out there tomorrow.”
Both teams conducted practices to get a feel for the arena.
Thursday’s game will tip off at 6:55 p.m. after opening ceremonies. It will be aired live on Fuji TV.
“I’d been feeling the same as I did in the past years,” Alvark big man Joji Takeuchi said, when asked what kind of state of mind he would be in before he took the court for the opening contest. “But I saw the LED court and everything, and I’m nervous now. However, this is a historic opening game and we would like to show our Alvark basketball.”
The two-game series at Yoyogi will be played on an LED court, on which all the logos and lines were virtually drawn. According to the league, this experiment will be a first anywhere in the world for an official professional basketball game. The arena will also hang a big jumbotron from the ceiling and fans are expected to be entertained with other attractions as well.
Former NBA guard and newly acquired Alvark Diante Garrett said that he was excited about making his debut in Japan with this special setup.
“That was the first time I’ve seen the court like that in the States or in the NBA arenas,” Garrett, who played for the Utah Jazz in the 2013-14 season, said of the court. “Really, I haven’t seen anything like that besides the All-Star Game in Brooklyn (the All-Star Saturday Night was held at the Barclays Center in 2015). Their court kind of lit up but just like for the commercial times and stuff like that, not (during)the whole game. So this will be a new experience for me.”
Former bj-league MVP forward Anthony McHenry, who’s entering his ninth season with Ryukyu, echoed Garrett’s sentiments about the unique floor, saying that he’s never seen anything like it.
“I’m excited to get out there, to see how it feels and everything,” said McHenry, who was part of the Georgia Tech team that finished runner-up in the 2004 NCAA Tournament in San Antonio (the University of Connecticut defeated the Yellow Jackets 82-73 in the final). “This is a great opportunity, not only for me but for Japanese basketball as a whole. This will be one of the greatest experiences I’ll remember, probably, throughout my career.”
Despite the circumstances, both teams are focused on exhibiting their best basketball.
“Obviously, we are going to try to win,” Alvark head coach Takuma Ito said. “But not only that, it’s one of our missions that we are going to make the fans that are watching the game at the arena and on TV feel that basketball is fun to watch. I told our players that we’d need to play a high-quality game.
“We always say to our players that we need to give ‘wows’ to the fans. We are going to have to give them a lot of wows through this game.”
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