After a month of games, there are two 1-7 teams in the B. League’s 18-team first division. And they are both vying to climb out of the cellar.
The Central Division’s Toyama Grouses, last season’s bj-league championship runner-up squad, has stumbled out of the gate in the first month of the season.
The West’s Shiga Lakestars have also failed to put together a winning streak so far.
Coach Koto Toyama’s Lakestars opened the season with five straight losses before recording their first victory, 83-74, on Oct. 9 against the visiting Kyoto Hannaryz.
The Lakestars need to find a way to consistently put more points on the board. They are averaging a league-worst 65.1 points per game, and this includes 49- and 56-point road games against the Ryukyu Golden Kings on Oct. 1 and 2.
Last weekend, the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins limited the Lakestars to 54 and 67 points, winning by 13- and seven-point margins in the process.
To increase its scoring, Shiga’s assist-to-turnover ratio will need to improve. The Lakestars have 79 assists while turning the ball over 95 times.
Many teams, of course, have overhauled their roster after closing out the old era in the bj-league, NBL or NBDL last season. And building team chemistry in the new league happens at different speeds for different clubs.
Roster continuity, or lack thereof, is one factor in Shiga’s woes. The Lakestars retained only three regular contributors from the team’s opening-day roster last season in guards Ryota Kobayashi and Yutaka Yokoe, the current captain, and power forward Julian Mavunga. Among their offseason departure were veterans Jeff Parmer (to the Yokohama B-Corsairs), Kazuya “J.” Hatano (Ryukyu Golden Kings) and Yu Okada (Toyama Grouses).
Mavunga, a Miami (Ohio) University alum, is one of the B. League’s top all-around players. He is the sixth-leading scorer (17.9 ppg) and No. 2 in assists (4.6). He’s also averaging 7.6 rebounds a game, also tops on Shiga in that category.
No other Lakestar is currently scoring in double figures, though shooting guard Yusuke Karino is quite close at 9.8 ppg, and new center David Weaver, a Wake Forest University alum, is contributing 8.0 a game.
Indeed, the next few months will be a pivotal stretch for Shiga. With 52 games remaining on its schedule, the Kansai-based team has an opportunity to make big strides toward respectability.
Artistic talent: While plying his craft on the court, Shinshu Brave Warriors veteran post player Jamal Boykin continues his passion for drawing. Now playing in the second division, Boykin, who began his college career at Duke University before transferring to the University of California, recently posted a sketch of him and his brother, Ruben, a Bambitious Nara forward, on Facebook. Jamal clenches a basketball in the photo.
Jamal Boykin revealed that he used the iPad Pro’s apple pencil for the quite realistic drawing. He wrote, “I’ve been sleeping on digital art. This has given my hobby new life.”
In 2009, Boykin’s artwork was publicized by several media outlets, including ESPN and the New York Daily News. That year, he was completing an ambitious project: 44 sketches of the 44th U.S. president, Barack Obama. Alphonse Berber Gallery in Berkeley, California, held an exhibition for his artwork that May, the Daily News reported.
“A lot of people believe athletes are one-dimensional, but we aren’t,” Jamal Boykin, then a Cal senior, told the New York Daily News in November 2009. “We’re poets and musicians and photographers and any number of things. In a way this has maybe made people see me — see athletes — as more human.”
High-octane output: The Tochigi Brex are the B1 leader in scoring average (84.0), followed by the Alvark Tokyo and Kawaski Brave Thunders (81.4).
Upcoming schedule: This week’s slate of games is scheduled to tip off on Friday with the Kawasaki Brave Thunders playing host to the Toyama Grouses. The rest of the weekend’s first-division action begin on Saturday. The matchups are SeaHorses Mikawa vs. Kyoto Hannaryz, Tochigi Brex vs. Alvark Tokyo, Chiba Jets vs. Levanga Hokkaido, Sendai 89ers vs. Akita Northern Happinets, Yokohama B-Corsairs vs. Niigata Albirex BB, San-en NeoPhoenix vs. Sunrockers Shibuya, Shiga Lakestars vs. Osaka Evessa and Ryukyu Golden Kings vs. Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.
On the air: Friday’s Brave Thunders-Grouses game will be televised by NHK-BS1.
Tipoff time: 7:10 p.m.
Second-division spotlight on … statistical leaders: In the 18-team B2, here’s a quick rundown of top-five leaders through Sunday:
Scoring — Nishinomiya’s Will Creekmore (20.9 per game), Kagawa’s Chehales Tapscott (20.5), Nagoya’s Solomon Alabi (20.0), Ibaraki’s Rick Rickert (18.1) and Aomori’s Kyle Barrone (16.8).
Rebounding — Rickert (13.9), Alabi (13.4), Creekmore (13.1), Iwate’s Donald Lawson (11.5) and Barrone (11.1).
Assists — Nagoya’s Yuto Otsuka (4.5), Nishinomiya’s Akitomo Takeno (4.0), Fukushima’s Cedric Bozeman (3.9), Hiroshima’s Seiji Ikarugi (3.8) and Kagoshima’s Kazuto Sameshima (3.6).
Steals — Kumamoto’s Takumi Furuno (2.3), Creekmore (2.0), Gunma’s Masashi Obuchi (1.9), Ehime’s Taishi Kasahara and Ehime’s Masahiro Okamoto (1.6).
Blocks — Gunma’s Abdullahi Kuso (2.0), Alabi and Shimane’s Wayne Marshall (1.8) and Barrone, Creekmore and Earthfriends Tokyo’s Zach Andrews (1.4).
Did you know?: In the third division, the Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka (6-0), Tokyo Hachioji Trains (4-0) and Kanazawa Samuraiz (4-0) are setting the pace in the early going this season.
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