Basketball / B. League

Sakuragi remains vital on-court presence for SeaHorses

A day before his 40th birthday, the veteran forward scores 18 points, grabs 15 rebounds in triumph over Diamond Dolphins

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Throughout the 21st century, J.R. Sakuragi has been one of the most prominent names in Japan men’s basketball.

Formerly known as J.R. Henderson, the ex-UCLA standout and NBA player, made his debut with the Aisin SeaHorses in 2001. And he’s still going strong for the team now called the SeaHorses Mikawa.

Sakuragi, who turns 40 on Sunday, had team-best totals in points (18) and rebounds (15) in Mikawa’s 75-64 victory on Saturday over the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins in Komaki, Aichi Prefecture.

The former Vancouver Grizzlies player — a second-round NBA draft pick in 1998 who played one season for the squad — became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2007. Since 2001, he has been a fixture on the SeaHorses roster for the majority of that time.

Sakuragi started on Saturday at power forward and logged 30 minutes, 15 seconds of court time, a second shy of Kosuke Kanamaru’s team-high total.

Gavin Edwards, who’s 12 years younger than Sakuragi, contributed 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for Mikawa (8-3), while Isaac Butts had seven points and 11 boards. Kanamaru and Makoto Hiejima both had 11-point outings.

Led by Sakuragi, the SeaHorses cleaned up on the glass, out-rebounding the visitors 53-38.

Nagoya (8-3) struggled offensively, making 16 of 47 shots from inside the arc.

Taito Nakahigashi paced the Diamond Dolphins with 15 points and Jerome Tillman and Tenketsu Harimoto both had 12. Justin Burrell finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Brex 68, Northern Happinets 61

In Noshiro, Akita Prefecture, Tochigi delighted the local fans who wanted to see Noshiro Technical High School hero Yuta Tabuse in action and the East Division powerhouse squad prevailed against the hosts at the same time.

Tabuse had four points and three assists in nearly 23 minutes on the court, helping the Brex (9-2) secure the victory.

Yusuke Endo led Tochigi with 15 points and Jeff Gibbs scored 14 and grabbed eight rebounds. Ryan Rossiter had 10 points and 14 boards and Kosuke Takeuchi scored nine points.

Kevin Palmer had 18 points and five seals for the Northern Happinets (2-9), while Deshawn Stephens scored 10 points, as did center Daisuke Taniguchi. Shigehiro Taguchi had eight points and Seiya Ando chipped in with six points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

Evessa 75, Hannaryz 59

In Osaka, Kyoto was held to 23 first-half points en route to a series-opening loss against its Kansai rival.

The Evessa (5-6) led 35-23 at the break.

Former NBA center Josh Harrellson, a University of Kentucky alum, had 21 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks for Osaka and Naoaki Hashimoto poured in 15 points. Shinnosuke Negoro and Xavier Gibson both scored 11 points, with Gibson providing nine rebounds and three blocks as well. Takuya Hashimoto had an eight-point effort.

Kevin Kotzur and Marcus Dove were the Hannaryz’s high scorers with 11 points apiece and Koki Yabuuchi had 10 points. Kotzur led Kyoto (3-8) in rebounding with 10 boards.

B-Corsairs 80, Sunrockers 65

In Nagareyama, Chiba Prefecture, starting guards Takuya Kawamura and Masashi Hosoya combined for 39 points and eight assists to lead Yokohama past Shibuya.

Kawamura, a longtime star during the JBL/NBL era, had 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists for the B-Corsairs (4-7). Hosoya added 16 points with five assists. They combined to knock down 7 of 10 3s, with each taking five attempts and Hosoya draining four.

Yokohama center Jason Washburn chipped in with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Jeff Parmer finished with 11 points, nine boards and three blocks, while Faye Pape Mour had eight points.

For the Sunrockers (6-5), Takashi Ito was the high scorer with 21 points and Ira Brown had 10 with seven rebounds. Taishiro Shimizu supplied nine points and Kenta Hirose contributed eight.

Shibuya missed 25 of its 31 shots from 3-point range.

Albirex BB 94, Grouses 73

In Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, coach Kazuhiro Shoji’s club had a strong first-quarter performance that set the tone for a win over Toyama.

The Albirex (6-5) led 30-17 after the opening stanza, then took a 55-40 advantage into halftime.

Center Davante Gardner, a Marquette University alum, had a team-high 23 points for Niigata. He sank 6 of 7 free-throw attempts. Frontcourt mate Clint Chapman added 21 points and nine rebounds. Small forward Tenyoku You chipped in with 15 points and Kimitake Sato poured in 12. Floor leader Kei Igarashi added seven points and three assists, while Shunki Hatakeyama, who had four points, finished with seven assists and four steals.

The Albirex drained 19 of 21 foul shots. They collected 14 steals in the rout.

For the Grouses (1-10), ex-NBA center Earl Barron had 24 points and 11 rebounds and Sam Willard scored 17 points, grabbed 10 boards and made three steals. Naoki Uto and Masashi Joho scored nine and seven points, respectively.

Toyama has lost 10 straight games.

Alvark 87, Jets 84

In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Tokyo wasn’t making 3-point shots with any regularity, and the hosts never stopped taking them. But in the end, the Alvark’s superior output from inside the arc proved vital.

Tokyo finished 3-for-17 from 3-point range, but converted 30 of 46 2-point attempts. Equally impressive, the Alvark had only eight turnovers in the 40-minute contest.

New Mexico State alum Troy Gillenwater paced Tokyo (9-2) with 26 points. He put 9 of 15 shots through the cylinder. High-energy guard Diante Garrett, who played college ball at Iowa State, made a big impact with 24 points, including 8 of 10 at the charity stripe, with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Shohei Kikuchi added 13 points for the Alvark, Joji Takeuchi put eight points on the boards and hauled in 12 rebounds and Daiki Tanaka contributed seven points.

The Jets (5-6) attempted 37 3s and made 13. They fired up 33 shots from inside the arc against Tokyo’s tight interior defense, scoring on 16 of them.

Kosuke Ishii, who sank five 3s, and Tyler Stone led Chiba with 17 points apiece. Stone grabbed 12 boards to complete the double-double. Yuki Togashi and Hilton Armstrong each had 16 points, the latter also pulling down 11 rebounds. Michael Parker added nine points for the hosts.

Brave Thunders 84, NeoPhoenix 66

In Kawasaki, the hosts cruised past San-en to earn a bounce-back victory in the series finale.

Brave Thunders center Nick Fazekas, the league’s leading scorer (29.7 points per game), had a game-best 35 points on 14-for-22 shooting and 12 rebounds. Ryan Spangler added 16 points and 11 rebounds to give the club two double-doubles.

Naoto Tsuji had 10 points and Ryusei Shinoyama scored nine for Kawasaki (9-3). Tsuji and Takumi Hasegawa both handed out a team-high four assists.

The Brave Thunders were ahead 36-27 at the break, then took control of the game in the third quarter and led 60-38 entering the fourth.

The NeoPhoenix (8-4) turned the ball over 16 times and had 10 assists.

Former University of Colorado player Richard Roby paced San-en with 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting and raked in seven rebounds. Olu Ashaolu added 17 points, making 7 of 9 shots from the field, while Robert Dozier scored 19 points. Shuto Tawatari canned three 3s for all of his nine points on the afternoon.

Second-division update: Here are Saturday’s B2 results: Ibaraki Robots 83, Yamagata Wyverns 75; Hiroshima Dragonflies 105, Ehime Orange Vikings 72; Nishinomiya Storks 69, Tokyo Excellence 60; Fighting Eagles Nagoya 91, Earthfriends Tokyo Z 65; Aomori Wat’s 70, Iwate Big Bulls 61; Gunma Crane Thunders 70, Fukushima Firebonds 64; Shinshu Brave Warriors 63, Bambitious Nara 57; Kagawa Five Arrows 105, Kagoshima Rebnise 75; and Kumamoto Volters 71, Shimane Susanoo Magic 70.

Garcia’s return: The Toyama Grouses have signed veteran big man Angel Garcia, the team announced on Friday.

The 209-cm former University of Memphis player, who has strong outside shooting skills, suited up for Toyama during the 2012-13 season. His pro career also includes stops in Spain, Germany, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.

“I’m glad to come back and be able to play for Toyama again,” Garcia said in a statement.

He had six points and three rebounds in his season debut on Saturday against Niigata.

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