January has been a frustrating month for the Kyoto Hannaryz.
But the team halted a four-game losing streak on Sunday, edging the visiting San-en NeoPhoenix 77-75. That gave the Hannaryz (14-18) their first victory of 2017.
The Kansai-based club closed out December this way: win, loss, win, loss, win.
In coach Honoo Hamaguchi’s sixth season at the helm, Kyoto has revamped its roster after being a perennial playoff participant in the bj-league.
Forwards Marcus Dove, an Oklahoma State alum, and Lawrence Hill, a Stanford University product, and shooting guard Yusuke Okada are among the team’s key newcomers this season.
While Kyoto is not among the first division’s top-10 teams in scoring, rebounding or assists, it is eighth in steals (6.8 per game), eighth in 3-point shooting percentage (34.8) and 10th in free-throw shooting (71.3 percent).
Forward Kevin Kotzur is averaging 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds (No. 8 in the league. Dove is contributing 10.1 points and 7.8 boards per game, while Hill is averaging 7.6 points. Okada is sixth in the circuit in free-throw shooting accuracy (85.7 percent), helping him accumulate 11.8 points a game. Fellow guards Hayato Kawashima and Shingo Utsumi have posted 6.1 and 5.5 scoring averages, respectively.
One positive sign for the Hannaryz has been their fierce competitive spirit, and the team has responded well to the challenge of overtime games, going 3-0 to date.
Making progress: The December addition of former NBA center Dexter Pittman has solidified the Toyama frontcourt.
The Grouses have started to prosper with Pittman expanding his role as a focal point of the team’s offense and as a defensive anchor inside.
In last weekend’s sweep of Ryukyu, Pittman, a second-round draft pick by the Miami Heat in 2010, contributed 12 points and eight rebounds in an 88-87 home win over the Golden Kings on Saturday, followed by 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting, including two dunks, and nine rebounds in 19-plus minutes in Sunday’s 92-70 triumph.
In nine games (seven starts) for Toyama, the 211-cm University of Texas product is averaging 11.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Meanwhile, bench boss Bob Nash’s squad has won four of its last five games. For the Grouses (7-25), it’s a big step in the right direction after a slow start this season.
Logjam: The Fighting Eagles Nagoya, Kumamoto Volters, Hiroshima Dragonflies and Shimane Susanoo Magic all share the top record (24-6) in the 18-team second division.
New addition: Former Iwate and Shimane star Scootie Randall has joined the second division’s Ibaraki Robots, it was recently announced.
The 27-year-old Temple University alum is an explosive scorer with strong versatility at both ends of the floor.
The Robots (13-17) are in fifth place in the B2’s six-team East Division. Randall made his Robots debut on Jan. 20, scoring 31 points and grabbing 11 rebounds (seven offensive boards) in a 78-73 defeat to the Tokyo Excellence.
Upcoming games: The weekend tips off with the Sendai-Kyoto series opener on Friday. The rest of the week’s action starts a day later: Mikawa vs. Tokyo, Nagoya vs. Kawasaki, Chiba vs. Osaka, Akita vs. San-en, Shibuya vs. Tochigi, Yokohama vs. Shiga, Toyama vs. Hokkaido and Ryukyu vs. Niigata.
Attendance figures: Through Jan. 3 (the latest league-issued numbers), five teams were averaging more than 3,000 fans for home games: the Jets (4,124), the Albirex (3,618), the Brex (3,445), the Golden Kings (3,395) and the Northern Happinets (3,125).
Furthermore, Chiba, which primarily plays home games at Funabashi Arena, attracted a crowd of 6,039 for last Sunday’s game against Mikawa at Chiba Port Arena.
It was a positive sign for the league and exhibited the rising popularity of the Jets (20-12) throughout Chiba Prefecture.
Epic woes: The B2’s Kagoshima Rebnise have lost 27 of 30 games.
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