Injuries took their toll on Nishinomiya Storks co-captain Akitomo Takeno over the past several years.
The veteran guard, one of the most electrifying Japanese players during the bj-league’s 11 seasons, officially announced his retirement this week. The 31-year-old Takeno will remain with the Nishinomiya Storks organization, the team announced on Monday.
Takeno joins the Storks coaching staff as an assistant under Kensaku Tennichi, who guided the club to the second-division title in May. The team earned a promotion to the top flight for the 2017-18 campaign.
Takeno sustained a season-ending knee injury in January. While playing for the Akita Northern Happinets during the 2014-15 campaign, his season ended in February due to a torn ACL in his left knee. He was sidelined for a year.
The 173-cm Takeno had an offensive flair and terrific perimeter shooting skills. He shot a league-best 46.3 percent from 3-point range during the 2010-11 season while playing for the Rizing Fukuoka. He sank 93.0 percent of his free throws in the 2014-15 season, another example of his offensive talents.
A Daito Bunka University alum, Takeno’s pro career began with the Rizing during their inaugural 2007-08 season, and he contributed 8.1 points in 20 games. He suited up for the Niigata Albirex BB from 2008-10, returned to Fukuoka (2010-14) and competed for Akita (2014-16) before joining the Storks prior to last season. Takeno averaged a career-best 13.0 ppg for the Albirex in 2008-09. He had a knack for hitting big shots and an ever-present confidence in his ability to make a big play, qualities that should help ease his transition to coaching.
Early in his adult life, Takeno figured out he didn’t have an interest in a typical office job. He chose a career in sports.
“When I was 22 years old, I was thinking about my future: Do I go to work in a company? But I couldn’t imagine that lifestyle and I like basketball so I decided to be a hoop player,” Takeno told The Japan Times in a 2011 interview.
Tennichi’s contract was renewed for the upcoming season, and Takeno will begin his coaching career working alongside a mentor who has captured four championships in two Japan pro circuits (three with the Osaka Evessa in the bj-league, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08) and last season in the B2.
The Storks, meanwhile, are already making Takeno a visible part of the team’s offseason work. On the team’s website, his photo is featured with upcoming news of tryouts for its youth teams.
Shiga’s new leader
After a 21-39 campaign in the B1, the Shiga Lakestars recently parted ways with Koto Toyama, 34, who was at the helm for three seasons.
The Lakestars on Tuesday appointed Tochigi Brex assistant Shawn Dennis, a veteran Australian coach, as their new bench boss.
The well-traveled Dennis, who received a two-year contract, helped the Brex capture the top-division title during the inaugural season and now looks forward to the challenge that lies ahead with Shiga.
“With the formation of the B. League, which is (only a year old), I think it’s a very exciting time to come to a team like Shiga as they try to grow and build into an exciting new league and basketball in Japan, which really starts to improve,” Dennis said in a statement. “It’s a really good opportunity for myself as a head coach coming to a young program and help build it towards success in the B. League.
The biggest thing I want to build is the culture of the club and develop it into a hard-working defensive unit that leads to an exciting brand of offense. I know that the fans will really enjoy watching. If you play that way, the players play better, the players will have a lot of fun, the fans will have a lot of fun, and put you in a great position to have a lot of success on and off the court.”
Dennis, a 51-year-old native of Melbourne, Australia, described his vision for the Lakestars as a “holistic approach to the game that’s not only a key to win a basketball game, and be a good coach, but to be a brand of entertainment, so people want to come and watch Shiga. That’s the thing we’ll be working hard to build on.”
To do so, he continued, “is to have an environment that the team and the players enjoy being a part of, and the coaching staff and administration staff enjoy being a part of, and we become one big family. That really does put you into the community and involves the community and allows us to have success.”
A former Newcastle Falcons player in Australia’s NBL, Dennis began his coaching career with the team in 1993. He has guided and served as an assistant on several clubs in Australia, including, most recently, the Townsville Crocodiles before joining Tochigi. He won the 2015-16 NBL Coach of the Year award. He also guided the Hawkes Bay Hawks to the New Zealand League title in 2006. He’s also served a stint as the New Zealand women’s national team coach.
Ishida’s new role
The Tokyo Excellence have made a leadership change at the top, handing the reins to rookie sideline supervisor Takaki Ishida, who like Takeno, joins the coaching fraternity for the upcoming season.
The 34-year-old Ishida, a shooting guard, played the final four seasons of his career for the Excellence, who went 22-38 as a B2 club in 2016-17. His retirement announcement came this week.
With Ishida’s appointment as head coach, Masaki Hayamizu, 32, who held that position last season, will shift into his new role as assistant coach.
Ishida is eager to begin the next chapter of his career with the team.
“I would like to work with sincerity in this role that will be my first challenge,” Ishida said in a news release. “I would like to do work that leads to the growth of the team and athletes.”
He added: “I will do my best to make it an attractive team.”
Before suiting up for the Excellence in the NBDL and B. League, Ishida played for the Tokyo Motors Alvark in the JBL and Chiba Jets in the bj-league. He averaged 3.8 points in 53 games for the Excellence in his final season.
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