Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Sunrockers still a work in progress under new coach Toews

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Naturally, a 60-game season, starting in September and ending in May, doesn’t involve the same preparations as a five-day tournament.

Adjustments are more subtle.

Changes occur over many months as coaches prepare their players for the long haul.

And in this season of newness all around in the first-year circuit, the Sunrockers Shibuya, led by first-year bench boss BT Toews, are persistently plotting ways to get better.

Like their Central Division foes — the Kawasaki Brave Thunders (14-3 record through Wednesday), San-en NeoPhoenix (11-6), Niigata Albirex BB (9-8), Yokohama B-Corsairs (6-11) and Toyama Grouses (2-15) — the Sunrockers want to find ways to improve.

Shibuya (9-8) has reasons to be encouraged by their statistical output over roughly the first quarter of the season.

Through Sunday, the Sunrockers ranked second in the 18-team top division in steals (7.9 per game) and fourth in assists (14.7). They ranked third in points allowed (70.4), but were 10th in scoring (73.6) after Sunday’s 65-60 home defeat to the San-en NeoPhoenix at Aoyama Gakuin University Memorial Hall.

Entering this week, Kenta Hirose was No. 2 in steals (2.3 per game), while R.T. Guinn was second in 3-point shooting accuracy (47 percent) and 10th overall in free-throw shooting (86.4 percent).

Toews told reporters the team’s offense is not quite up to speed as its defense, and the addition of 211-cm Canadian center Chad Posthumus, who made his Shibuya debut on Saturday, will take some time from a familiarity standpoint.

“Since we are a work in progress offensively, it’s integral that we hang our hat on defense in the early part of the season,” Toews remarked.

Defense is the first priority, the tone-setting trait for Toews’ team.

“Wherever I have coached, high school, women’s pro or with this team, I believe that emphasis should be put on aggressiveness in order to force the offense to think and make decisions,” he noted.

“We run drills that encourage calculated risk taking in the half court. If I have the right kind of players, I would extend that defensive thinking to the full court in specific moments of the game.”

He added: “I also like to change defenses and pick coverages if I have the chance. Certainly I would take more chances defensively if I had the players that embraced change, but that is often not the case in Japan. Perhaps one of my weaknesses as a coach is that I like to ‘mix it up’ too much at times and it may cause confusion.”

Toews admitted the overhaul of the team is a unique challenge, saying from the get-go the goal was to “make a completely different team than last year’s team.” He cited new offensive and defensive philosophies and a different cast of players.

With those changes, the Canadian mentor offered this assessment: “I think they are doing very well, to be honest, especially defensively . . . but the offensive part is a work in progress. With the new player in, it’s time to evaluate and work at it again, because it will change again.”

The Sunrockers, who are led by Ira Brown’s 13.5 points per game plus Guinn’s 13.2 and Hirose’s 10.3, are looking to upgrade their offense in the coming weeks.

“I think all coaches would agree that offense always takes a little bit longer to teach, and a lot of it is not just understanding but also the rhythm of offense,” Toews said. “Sometimes we have great rhythm and other times we have terrible rhythm.”

All-Star team names: Simplicity prevailed to chose the team names for the inaugural B. League All-Star Game, as fans voted online and via social media. The winners: B. Black vs. B. White (58 percent of the vote).

In second place, B. Fantastic vs. B. Strong got 15 percent of the vote, followed by B. Passion vs. B. Prides (13 percent), All-B vs. Star-B (eight percent) and B. Tomahawak vs. B. Windmill (six percent).

The All-Star Game will be held at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Jan. 15.

Big-city talk: Chad Posthumus left second-division club Kagoshima Rebnise last week after a short stint to start the season and joined Shibuya. He began his pro career with Hokkaido in 2014. So he has experience playing and living in the northern and southern outposts in Japan.

Asked about his big move to Tokyo, the Winnipeg native said he embraced the change.

“It’s great,” Posthumus told The Japan Times. “The resources that they have and the access to the facilities that we have all the time is such a huge help to maintaining how you play and how I feel the whole time.

“It’s just cutting down on travel to practice areas and different gyms for practice all the time, and just being able to streamline and have our own locker and go to practice in 10 minutes, then get ready for film or treatment or practice easily. It’s awesome.”

He described it as a smooth transition moving to the Tokyo area.

“Traveling to Tokyo and everywhere to play games, it was easy to adjust to living here,” said Posthumus, whose college career included stops at the University of British Columbia, Howard College and Morehead State.

At Morehead State, Posthumus recalled that his job was “to run the floor, play defense and rebound.” He said that’s his role with the Sunrockers, too.

Last weekend, Posthumus recalled his top game as a collegiate player, when he had 21 points and 18 rebounds in 40 minutes against the 22nd-ranked UCLA Bruins at famed Pauley Pavilion in November 2013. Morehead State pulled off an 11-point upset win.

“I just did my job out there,” Posthumus says now, “just rebounded, played hard (on) defense, didn’t let them score on me one-on-one. And the points just come with that, with rebounding and being in the right spot.”

Unique promotion: Replicating a promotional campaign that the Yokohama BayStars have used in Nippon Professional Baseball for upper-level general admission seats, the Akita Northern Happinets are offering a “How Much? You Decide” offer for Saturday’s game tickets. Fans choose what they want to pay.

This applies for upper-level (non-reserved) seats at CNA Arena Akita. Which means that if a fan wants to pay ¥100 for a ticket bought on game day, that is OK; or even ¥10 is permitted, and so on.

In a press release, the team stated that the goal is to expand its fan base throughout Akita Prefecture and attract newcomers to games via this promotion.

Bonus shots: First-year Valparaiso University head coach Matt Lottich, a former Osaka Evessa and Oita HeatDevils star, guided his team to a 68-60 win over the University of Alabama on Monday night in the semifinals of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event’s heavyweight bracket in Las Vegas. The Crimson Tide are guided by former NBA guard and head coach Avery Johnson. On Wednesday, the Crusaders beat Brigham Young University 92-89 in the tourney finale, improving to 5-1 on the season. . . . Levanga shooting guard Takehiko Orimo is closing in on 9,000 career points, including his years in the JBL and NBL. With 10 points in Hokkaido’s 75-70 OT win over Akita on Wednesday, Orimo is 12 points shy of the milestone.

Weekend matchups: On Saturday, Akita vs. Sendai, Mikawa vs. Ryukyu, Osaka vs. Nagoya, Shibuya vs. Niigata, Yokohama vs. San-en, Toyama vs. Kawasaki and Kyoto vs. Shiga are set to begin their two-game sets, while Hokkaido vs. Chiba is scheduled to start on Sunday.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.