Credit the B. League for making an earnest effort to raise the professional reputation of men’s basketball in Japan.
Elevating the sport is not just about having the former NBL, NBDL and bj-league teams under one umbrella. Little things that may go unnoticed to the general public are also a part of the equation and the league’s chances for long-term success.
For instance, the B. League is taking a pro-active stance about the importance of media protocol and the way players, coaches and team officials interact with the press.
That’s where Chie Katakami enters the picture.
Katakami, who teaches a sports management course at Teikyo University in Hachioji, is spearheading the league’s efforts to have guiding principles in place to create a better working relationship between media and team personnel.
Two months before the opening games, a media training session for B. League players was held at Yamaha Resort Tsumagoi in Shizuoka Prefecture from July 21-23.
Katakami, a former NHK Matsuyama newscaster and sports reporter, also lined up three or four additional training sessions with the Alvark for this season.
“Unfortunately in the Japanese sports community, the importance of my focused field, that is not directly related to improvement of competitiveness, is not understood well yet,” the 49-year-old Katakami said.
Step by step, she’s trying to change that.
Asked for a general rundown of her background in this field, Katakami, an assistant professor in Teikyo’s faculty of economics (department of business administration) gave the following summarized explanation: “From about 2003, I have specialized media training for athletes such as the J. League, professional baseball, rugby, volleyball and also member athletes of the Japanese Olympic Committee.”
The Japanese Olympians include now-retired swimming icon Kosuke Kitajima and table-tennis star Ai Fukuhara.
In her own ongoing study of the nexus of sports and media, Katakami has gathered a wealth of information about how media training is done in the United States. She said her focus has included collecting documents about the United States Olympic Committee, MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA.
For the B. League, the Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, native, designed her training program with practical advice for all players.
She mentioned that non-verbal skills are a key part of that, pointing out that she instructs the players, “let’s answer question (while) looking in the eyes of the interviewer.”
The training session advice also includes the following: “Don’t refuse explicitly answering a question even if it is tough to answer.”
Instead, Katakami, who has worked in the media training profession for 13 years, instructs athletes to say this: “Let’s try to explain why the question is not easy to answer.”
At the training seminar at the Shizuoka resort, the players’ communication training included explanations of contracts, risk management and professionalism, with other training specialists giving guidelines.
Katakami, a gregarious presence while conversing with reporters and athletes, revealed that her previous background as a journalist piqued her interested in this valuable training.
“When I was an announcer on local TV as an interviewer, I strongly felt the importance of media training for athletes,” she noted. “I started to learn it and continue until now.”
Meanwhile, with the rapid growth of pro basketball in Japan over the past decade and the stability of the J. League over two-plus decades, media policies have evolved in that time. But Katakami considers the B. League and the J. League as sports leagues that have developed from a media policy standpoint.
“I think the J. League or the B. League are (more) advanced from others,” she commented.
Indeed, the work of Katakami and others in her field can help continue to make an impact in this area.
Katakami received a master’s degree in health, physical education and sports science (with a specialization in sports sociology and sports industry) from the University of Tsukuba.
For half a year, starting in September 2015, she traveled overseas and studied at St. John’s University in New York. While there, she conducted interviews and research based on the NBA and Major League Soccer, among other topics.
New publication: Joining the ranks of the nation’s hoop magazines and online media outlets, Hangtime recently published its debut issue.
The magazine chronicles the men’s and women’s pro game in Japan and the national teams, among other topics.
Tochigi Brex guard Yuta Tabuse’s photograph is on the cover.
B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa is featured in an interview.
The magazine, a quarterly publication, also has a website, hangtime-magazine.jp
Roster moves: The Ryukyu Golden Kings released veteran forward Mo Charlo on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Charlo appeared in 10 games for Ryukyu, averaging 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 14.4 minutes.
Upcoming games: The Brave Thunders-NeoPhoenix series tips off on Friday in Kawasaki. The following two-game series are set for Saturday and Sunday: Diamond Dolphins vs. SeaHorses, Sunrockers vs. B-Corsairs, Albirex BB vs. Grouses, Jets vs. Alvark, Evessa vs. Hannaryz and Northern Happinets vs. Brex. On Sunday and Monday, it’s Levanga vs. 89ers and Lakestars vs. Golden Kings.
Second-division spotlight on . . . the Nishinomiya Storks: Coach Tetsuya Takahashi’s team is tied with the Fighting Eagles Nagoya for the best record (9-1) in the B2. Kensaku Tennichi, who guided the Osaka Evessa to three straight bj-league crowns (2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08) as the team’s original bench boss, is Takahashi’s assistant.
Among the Storks’ key contributors are a pair of players who overcome severe knee injuries in recent years, point guard Akitomo Takeno and power forward Larry Owens. They sustained the injuries while playing for the Akita Northern Happinets and Kyoto Hannaryz, respectively.
Takeno worked his way back into the lineup last season for the Northern Happinets. He had been sidelined for nearly a year.
This season, Takeno has made a positive impact at the point for Nishinomiya, averaging 10.5 points and 3.9 assists (No. 3 in the second division).
Owens, a former NBA player, suffered a season-ending knee injury last December. The Oral Roberts University alum is contributing 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds a game.
What’s more, center Will Creekmore, a Missouri State alum, is having one of the best seasons among B2 players. He is the leading scorer (20.1 ppg) and is third overall in rebounding (11.6).
D-League talk: Talented forward Le’Bryan Nash, whose banner 2015-16 rookie season in the bj-league included All-Star Game MVP honors, the scoring title and Best Five team honors, finalized a contract last weekend with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Houston Rockets’ NBA Development League affiliate.
Nash, who began his pro career with the Fukushima Firebonds last fall, also set the single-game scoring mark (54 points against the Shinshu Brave Warriors on Feb. 28) for the now-disbanded bj-league.
In the working agreement between the D-League and the NBA, any of the 30 NBA squads can sign players off D-League staff. If Nash, an Oklahoma State alum, makes a positive impact for the Vipers and impresses NBA talent evaluators, he may get a shot at joining an NBA team this season.
Nash, one of the most electrifying talents to play ball in Japan during the 21st century, suited up for the Milwaukee during the 2016 Las Vegas Summer League.
Injury update: Toyama Grouses forward Drew Viney is sidelined for a month with a left talus bone contusion, the team announced earlier this week.
He sustained the ankle injury last month during a team practice, according to news release. Viney, a Loyola Marymount alum, is expected to return to the active roster on Nov 24.
Did you know?: Forward Alan Wiggins Jr. is with the second-division Aomori Wat’s this season. Through Sunday, he is the 18-team circuit’s eighth-leading scorer (16.3 points per game).
Wiggins, 31, starred for the University of San Francisco Dons (2003-07) before embarking on a pro career. His father, the late Alan Wiggins, a baseball star in the 1980s for the San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles, was one of the most dynamic base stealers during that era. He was a key player for the Padres’ NL pennant-winning team in ’84.