Landen Lucas needs no introduction to die-hard Kansas Jayhawks fans.
But on this side of the Pacific Ocean, it’s the perfect time to formally introduce the rookie center to Japan basketball circles.
Lucas is a newcomer on the scene for the Alvark Tokyo, but his collegiate career was synonymous with winning. While the 23-year-old Lucas was at Kansas, the powerhouse Jayhawks won five Big 12 Conference titles, went 147-35 overall and 75-3 at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Alvark announced the acquisition on Tuesday, with Lucas signing with the top-flight club this week. He’ll join former NBA forward Jawad Williams, who was signed on Wednesday, on new coach Luka Pavicevic’s revamped roster.
“Now we need to work hard with them at becoming a team that we want to be,” Pavicevic told reporters at a Wednesday news conference.
“It will take a long and continuous effort to achieve these goals set in front of us. It is a process that will start on Monday with the preparation for the 2017-18 season. During these first seven to eight weeks, we will try to lay down the foundation of our game for the next season.”
Pavicevic has high hopes for Lucas, Williams and their teammates.
“The quality of the work that we put in as well as the selections we have made will determine the level of our success at the end of the season,” the coach said.
Lucas’ father Richard, a former University of Oregon center (1987-91), played four seasons for Japan Energy in the JBL in the 1990s, and Landen lived here during the first four years of his life, then returned for his sixth-grade year, according to published reports. Lucas attended Japanese language school in Portland, Oregon, after the elder Lucas’ playing time in Japan ended and the family returned to the United States.
Lucas played for the Boston Celtics during NBA Summer League action in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. This past season, he received All Big-12 honorable mentions as a fifth-year senior — while working on his MBA (he already earned his bachelor’s degree in business) — and averaged 8.3 rebounds, and also led the team in that department as a junior (6.8 boards in 2015-16). He is one of 17 players in Kansas history with 700 or more rebounds.
To fill a roster vacancy, the Chiba Jets Funabashi have signed veteran big man Tony Gaffney, the team announced on Wednesday.
Former NBA center Hilton Armstrong left the club after last season to join the Ryukyu Golden Kings, creating an open spot on the roster.
The 206-cm Gaffney began his collegiate career at Boston University in 2004 and transferred after two seasons to UMass. As a senior, he earned Atlantic-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors for the 2008-09 season.
Gaffney signed contracts with the Boston Celtics in 2010 and Memphis Grizzlies in 2013, but was released without playing in a game both times.
His pro career includes stops in the NBA Development League (Utah Flash) as well as Turkey, Germany, Israel and Spain.
While with Hapoel Jerusalem, he earned the Israeli Super League Sixth Man of the Year award in 2015. He played for Alba Berlin in Germany this past season.
“. . . I’m beyond excited to get out there,” the 32-year-old Gaffney said in a statement. “I heard a lot of great things about the fans, about the organization. I’m just looking forward to a great season and hopefully a lot of wins.”
Meanwhile, in a change announced last year, the Jets have now started to use Funabashi as part of their official name
J.R. Sakuragi is gearing up for another season with the SeaHorses Mikawa after demonstrating at age 40 that he’s still quite capable of success as a point forward during his third stint with the club. He’s been a mainstay since 2007.
A second-round NBA draft pick in 1998 by the Vancouver Grizzlies, Sakuragi, a UCLA alum, shows now signs of slowing down. He was second among B1 players in assists (4.1 per game) last season, while contributing 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds.
In a Facebook post this week, Sakuragi wrote, “Preparing for my 17th season with SeaHorses Mikawa. Every season is an adventure for me so I’m excited to see what this one may bring . . .”
On the move
The Sunrockers Shibuya have signed former NBA post player Josh Harrellson, the team announced on Wednesday.
The University of Kentucky alum starred for the Osaka Evessa last season, averaging 15.1 points and 11.7 rebounds.