This is an exciting, challenging era for Japan pro basketball.
Entering season two of the B. League’s existence, teams are bolstering their fan clubs, enticing sponsors to come on board, building their rosters, planting the seeds of future growth, among other objectives.
All of these things, of course, help create legitimate fan and media interest and generate a buzz about budding (and already heated) rivalries.
In other words, there’s a lot happening on a year-round basis to enhance the public’s interest in the B. League.
And it’s all absolutely necessary.
A large chunk of the 36 teams in the top two divisions have been in business for less than a decade, with many more joining the pro ranks over the past several years. They are figuring out what works to grow the business and dealing with the ups and downs that happen as a result.
Which is why summer clinics with Japanese youngsters, meet-and-greet events at local shopping centers from Hokkaido to Okinawa and appearances on radio and TV stations big and small help strengthen teams’ bonds with local residents.
Perusing social media demonstrates the active presence that teams throughout Japan have had in reaching the masses to promote their teams and the sport during the offseason. It’s a positive sign for the future of the sport here.
Several months after leaving the Kagoshima Rebnise without receiving financial compensation for their work, big man Chad Posthumus and post player Cyrus Tate revealed that the team’s new ownership fulfilled the former cash-strapped ownership group’s IOUs and paid them what they were owed.
In a special report in The Japan Times in March, extensive details of Kagoshima’s financial problems and team officials repeatedly ignoring dozens of messages from both Tate and Posthumus after they left the team as they both attempted to collect what they were owed, and that other former and current team staff hadn’t received salary payments for weeks at a time were explained.
Tate confirmed that team executive Takumi Yoshida paid him in the first week of August.
“I know it took an extensive amount of time to get the money,” Tate said this week, reflecting on the ordeal in an exclusive interview with this newspaper.
“I’m just glad the guy at Kagoshima was a man of his word and took care of the issue,” added the University of Iowa alum. “That shows his character and professionalism. I recall having to complain about things with previous teams, and that should be a no-brainer as a professional athlete.
“We travel a long way away from our families (and) we shouldn’t have to stress about being paid on time and have the basic living accommodations. Playing should be the focus.”
In February, Tate also sent certified mail to the B. League office to inform league executives of the problem.
In March, the league’s board of directors approved a ¥15 million loan to the team.
After leaving the cash-strapped Rebnise, Tate finished the season with the Saitama Broncos, a B3 squad.
“. . . Kagoshima finally came through with the back payments last week and the new ownership cleared everything in full,” Posthumus said in an interview.
Posthumus moved on to the Sunrockers Shibuya and Shinshu Brave Warriors to close out the 2016-17 campaign.
The Rebnise were demoted to the third division for the upcoming season after playing in B2 during the last campaign.
Popular former standouts Taizo Kawabe and Jun Nakanishi are among the former players now working to establish their coaching credentials.
Both men have recently started new coaching jobs, with Kawabe joining the Fighting Eagles Nagoya and Nakanishi accepting a position with the Bambitious Nara.
Kawabe retired as a player in 2014 after stints with Mitsubishi (JBL) and Kyoto, Osaka and Shimane in the bj-league. A quality spot-up shooter, Kawabe helped spread the floor and open up the offense for his teams.
Now, he’s eager for a new challenge as an assistant for the Fighting Eagles.
“I would like to express my gratitude to everyone involved on the team who gave me such a chance,” the 35-year-old Kawabe said recently in a team-issued statement. “I will push forward to contribute to the team with my experience gained as a professional player and possessing energy.”
Nakanishi has been hired to serve as a translator and skills coach for Nara under renowned bench boss Zeljko Pavlicevic.
The 35-year-old Nakanishi’s playing career included stops with the Tokyo Apache (2005-07), Rizing Fukuoka (2007-08, 2010-14, 2015-16), Osaka Evessa (2008-10) and Iwate Big Bulls (2014-15) while splitting time with the Tokyo Cinq Reves and Yamagata Wyverns last season. Before turning pro, the versatile guard played at Santa Monica College, a two-year school in California.
“Communication is very important in team sports, so I would like to make efforts to smoothly communicate within the team with my own language skills,” Nakanishi, a Tokyo native, said in a statement. “As a skills coach I also want to help improve the skills of athletes . . .”
Frontcourt dynamo Davante Gardner is returning to the Niigata Albirex BB for a second season.
A relentless force in the low post, the Marquette University alum was B1’s second-leading scorer (21.9 points per game) in 2016-17, and pulled down 8.8 rebounds to finish in the top 10 in that category.
This offseason, ex-Yokohama B-Corsairs head coach Taketo Aoki was appointed as Niigata’s associate coach, reuniting him with former Albirex teammate and current Niigata bench boss Kazuhiro Shoji, who was born in the same year (1974). Aoki, a forward, played for Niigata from 2000-04; Shoji, who also worked in the frontcourt, starred for the club from 2000-05.
On the move
Forward Tyler Stone, whose 3-point shooting prowess helped the Chiba Jets rise to as a force in the East last season, will play for Hapoel Galil Gilboa in Israel during the upcoming campaign, according to asia-basket.com.
The Southeast Missouri State product averaged 18.3 points, the fifth-highest output in the top flight, for the Jets.
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