As the B. League takes a bye week and all players and teams get a well-deserved rest, it’s a good time to highlight some of the league’s key performers.
Like other pro hoop circuits, Japan’s new league puts a premium on perimeter shooting, especially from beyond the 3-point arc. Leading the way this season are five players in the first division who are shooting the lights out from long range.
Shuto Tawatari of the San-en NeoPhoenix is first overall at 49.2 percent, knocking down 32 of 65 shots in 14 games through Sunday. The 26-year-old shooting guard is averaging 10.6 points per game. He also has 29 assists against just six turnovers.
Tawatari has helped lead the NeoPhoenix to a 9-5 record to open the 60-game campaign.
Near the top of the 3-point shooting percentage chart, Tawatari is followed by Tochigi Brex sharpshooter Yusuke Endo (47.2 percent), Osaka Evessa standout Josh Harrellson (45.1), Yokohama B-Corsairs guard Masashi Hosoya (45.0) and Sunrockers Shibuya post player R.T. Guinn (44.7).
Top board men: Who’s leading the first division in rebounding? Harrellson, a former University of Kentucky (2008-11) player, at 13.1 per game.
While scoring a solid 17.1 ppg, the 208-cm Harrellson has drained 37 of 82 3s — which gives the Evessa an additional consistent threat from the outside to augment the team’s wings and guards — and raked in 183 rebounds in the first 14 games. He spent time with the New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons during the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, respectively,
Tochigi’s Ryan Rossiter is the No. 2 rebounder (11.5 per game), Kawasaki Brave Thunders star Nick Fazekas is third (11.2), followed by Alvark Tokyo’s Joji Takeuchi (11.1) and SeaHorses Mikawa big man Isaac Butts (10.8).
Who’s hot … who’s not?: The Brex, who have a league-best 12-2 record, have posted victories in 11 of their past 12 games, including four straight. . . . The Toyama Grouses (1-13) have lost 13 consecutive games.
Work in progress: Following their 95-59 defeat to the Brave Thunders on Sunday, the B-Corsairs took their time to reflect on the lopsided loss at Yokohama International Swimming Pool.
Yokohama forward Jeff Parmer said typical post-game meetings last about 10 minutes, with coach Taketo Aoki usually having a brief talk with his players. After their last game, however, Aoki spoke and several players also wanted to make a few remarks, according to Parmer, who said the meeting lasted nearly 20 minutes.
The B-Corsairs, who fell to 5-9 with their latest loss, now have a chance to work toward rebounding strongly after the bye.
“I think it’s going to help everyone,” Parmer said in a post-game interview. “Even if you don’t feel like you need the break, it’s going to be helpful for our body and mentally. That’s the biggest thing, mentally for us to get things together and for everybody to get on the right page.”
Assessment of Fazekas: Kawasaki’s Fazekas, a former Dallas Maverick and Los Angeles Clipper whose 28.8 ppg are No. 1 in the first division, has impressed Parmer. After all, in his fifth season with the Brave Thunders, Fazekas is the go-to scorer for the high-octane offense.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” Parmer commented. “This team does a great job of giving him the ball when he wants it and where he’s comfortable with the ball on the court and they know his sweet spots . . . and that comes from chemistry of playing on the team for that many years and knowing your teammates and knowing the places that you need to be on the court.
“Of course he’s skilled,” Parmer went on. “He’s a great, skilled guy, he can shoot the mid-range (jumper), he can shoot the 3, but that right little floater, man, is like an unstoppable shot. . . . And you can tell he works on that shot, like, in his sleep.”
Is Fazekas one of the faces of the league?
Parmer thinks so, adding this insight: “For sure, if you’re the top leading scorer every year in the league, you’re definitely one of the faces of the new league.”
Schedule update: The league returns to action on Nov. 18, when the Evessa play host to the Shiga Lakestars, and the rest of the teams play again a day later.
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