Early in his pro career, Tatsuya Suzuki displayed a flair for making the right pass at the right time.
Yes, he records a flashy assist here and there. He also threads the needle on textbook tosses of all varieties to his teammates.
He reads the defense and reacts. He quickly surveys the landscape and adjusts his path, going where he needs to go to be in the right position to make a play.
The Tokyo native stands only 169 cm, but his on-court presence and intelligence make a big difference for the San-en NeoPhoenix.
For Suzuki, this was also true with the Bambitious Nara. As a second year pro, he led the bj-league in assists in the 2014-15 campaign with 7.0 per game, and repeated as passing king with a 6.6 average the next season.
The 26-year-old Suzuki contributed 13 points and seven assists in San-en’s latest game, supplying numerous big plays that led to victory.
And after the NeoPhoenix’s 64-54 victory on Sunday over the Sunrockers Shibuya at Aoyama Gakuin University Memorial Hall, San-en coach Hiroki Fujita described Suzuki as the team’s offensive catalyst. He said Suzuki leads and makes plays.
Suzuki was asked what is his top personal goal for the season. He summed it up this way: “wins.” Reflecting on his role, he also said “guiding his team to wins” and “winning” are one and the same.
The NeoPhoenix unveiled a potent one-two punch last weekend, with former NBA swingman Cartier Martin making his B. League debut on Saturday. In the two games against Shibuya, Martin and Suzuki thrived. Together, their ability to knock down 3-pointers, create off the dribble and get their teammates involved is already quite evident.
In Sunday’s closing minute, Suzuki delivered an on-target pass to Martin, who scored an easy deuce. After the play, a fired-up Suzuki tapped his teammate on the shoulder, as if to say “great job.”
It was just another reminder that Suzuki is involved both emotionally and physically in his team’s games.
It’s a positive sign for any team leader, any offensive conductor.
Through four games, Suzuki is averaging 11.8 points and 4.8 assists.
What’s more, the durable backcourt leader entered the season as a starter in 207 of 209 regular-season games.
Already, Martin is excited about working alongside Suzuki as dual playmakers to ignite the offense.
“I think that’s going to work really good,” Martin said. “Suzuki, he’s able to handle the ball really well. He passes the ball extremely well, and I think with having us both on the floor and being able to handle the ball, it will open up the floor for our other players who can make shots, and also for our big men, I think it will help them to get the ball down low and make moves and pass it (back) out, and we’ll be able to penetrate, pass the ball out or score the ball.”
Dragonflies sign White
Two-time bj-league MVP Wendell White has finalized a contract with the B2 club Hiroshima Dragonflies, it was announced on Wednesday.
White, a forward, was scheduled to make his season debut on Thursday against the visiting Kumamoto Volters, according to a team-issued news release. The Dragonflies (3-1) took a three-game winning streak into the series opener.
The UNLV alum’s lengthy career in Japan has included stints with the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, Oita HeatDevils, Kyoto Hannaryz and Sendai 89ers.
New Shiga Lakestars coach Shawn Dennis took a few moments out of his busy schedule to assess the state of his team with two weeks now in the books.
Shiga enters the weekend with a 1-3 record.
Asked to assess the team’s positive traits, the Australian mentor had this to say: “Other than our breakdown in the second game where we set a new league record of a low 45 points (against the Yokohama B-Corsairs on Sept. 30) we have shown a fight and distinct change in our play. Once we break through the mental barrier of belief and understanding of what it takes to win, I feel we will continue to compete. I am happy with our progress. The players are getting better and therefore the team will get better.”
To continue to improve, the former Tochigi Brex assistant coach remarked that “we have to focus on consistency of play.”
He added: “As a team we have to do a better job of focusing in on the attention to detail and understanding that this is what produces results
“Defensively, we have to be much better and more disruptive.
“On offense we have to be on the front foot more. We don’t consistently put enough pressure on opposition defenses.”
Shiga newcomer D’or Fischer leads B1 in blocks (3.0), establishing himself as a rim protector.
Dennis declined to comment on individual players as part of his analysis of the team.
“I don’t like to single out players as I believe all play their roles in success,” he offered. “Some just get more publicity.”
Weighing in on pleasant aspects of the Lakestars season to date, he had this to say: “. . . As a whole the group has shown more potential than I thought we perhaps had. This has been pleasing and as we break some old habits we will get better.”
Shifting the interview to opposing teams, Dennis provided a few insights on a trio of teams.
“Watching Niigata play has been good,” said Dennis, a part of the title-winning Brex’s coaching staff last season. “I feel they are playing an exciting style, and with (Davante) Gardner healthy (he scored 40 points on Tuesday against the Alvark), he collapses the defenses and this opens opportunities for others.
“I also think Toyama have flown under the radar a little and are playing well.
“Hokkaido also have done well. They have brought in some good imports and coach (Kota Mizuno) is doing a great job.”
Orange Vikings update
Ehime Orange Vikings coach Richard Glesmann, in his first season at the helm, is working to put his stamp on the team.
Through four games, the Orange Vikings have won twice. It’s a decent start, of course, but a bigger accomplishment to date may be the transformation of the team, according to Glesmann.
“So far one very positive characteristic is everyone has continued to accept ‘unselfish’ culture,” Glesmann told The Japan Times.
“We have a chance to be a very good offensive team if everyone keeps playing with unselfish mentality.”
A former assistant coach at Adelphi, LIU Brooklyn and, most recently Duquesne, Glesmann commended his players for embracing a commitment to an up-tempo style of play.
As the season marches on, Glesmann is focused on shoring up the team’s half-court defense and rebounding.
“We want to play at a fast pace on offense so it’s even more critical we get more half-court stops without fouling,” he stated.
For Glesmann, Chehales Tapscott (20.5 ppg) and Tatsuhiko Toshino (17.3) have made solid impressions with their steady scoring contributions.
Shooting guard Taishi Kasahara, who’s contributing 7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game, has also impressed Glesmann.
“I knew Taishi Kasahara was a good player, however now that I have been watching him for six weeks, I have a better appreciation for his smart instincts in all facets of the game,” Glesmann said of Kasahara, who registered eight assists against the Fighting Eagles Nagoya on Oct. 7.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver briefly commented on the B. League on Tuesday during a news conference in Tokyo, where the NBA’s new global media partnership with Rakuten, Inc. was announced.
Silver, who attended the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, said the NBA is keeping an eye on the development of basketball here and the fledgling B. League’s growth.
“I just want to say that I think there’s tremendous momentum around the sport of basketball in Japan,” he said. “We’re excited about the new league. We’ve been following it very closely back in the United States. We think they are off to a wonderful start, and we see that many more young people are playing the game of basketball here as well . . .”
This weekend’s top-flight action begins on Friday (Kyoto vs. Nishinomiya). Eight other series tip off on Saturday: Mikawa vs. Toyama, Tochigi vs. Chiba, Tokyo vs. Yokohama, San-en vs. Niigata, Osaka vs. Shimane, Shibuya vs. Nagoya and Ryukyu vs. Shiga. On Sunday, Hokkaido takes on visiting Kawasaki in their series opener.
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