Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Tochigi's Yusuke Endo leads trio of free-throw sharpshooters

by Ed Odeven

With the game on the line and the potential pressure of a must-make free throw the reality, three B. League players have had the greatest success to date.

Yes, their collective sample size is a bit small in terms of overall shots, but near-perfect accuracy in converting free throws is always appreciated.

Combo guard Yusuke Endo of the Tochigi Brex sits atop the free-throw accuracy chart, making 100 percent of his attempts through Sunday. He’s 17-for-17. Mr. Automatic.

Nishinomiya Storks point guard/shooting guard Noriaki Dohara checks in at No. 2 with a 96.7 percent success rate (29 of 30).

Levanga Hokkaido small forward Ryota Sakurai, who competed for Japan at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, is also above 95 percent on attempts from the charity stripe. He’s drained 95.8 percent of them so far, making 23 of 24.

All three are currently on pace to shoot at a higher percentage than last season’s free-throw accuracy king, Kosuke Kanamaru of the SeaHorses Mikawa (90.8 percent, 139 of 153).

Of course a missed shot here or there tweaks the math a little bit, but impressive consistency at the line is what we’ve witnessed so far from Endo, Dohara and Sakurai at the head of the pack.

Stay tuned.

Albirex catalyst

Former Marquette University big man Davante Gardner powered the Niigata Albirex BB past the host Shiga Lakestars on Tuesday, scoring 43 points in an 82-71 triumph.

Gardner, who leads the top flight in scoring (29.1 points per game), made 15 of 16 free-throw attempts. He also converted 14 of 28 shots from the field, pulled down 16 rebounds and made four steals in 32-plus whirlwind minutes.

It was the third time this season Gardner has had 40 or more points. He achieved the feat in consecutive games on Oct. 10 (40 against the Alvark Tokyo) and Oct. 15 (47 against the San-en NeoPhoenix).

The Lakestars slipped to 8-9 with back-to-back defeats at home.

The Albirex (8-9) ended a three-game losing streak by winning the series opener 86-64 on Monday, a game in which Gardner led all scorers with 24 points.

On the move

Forward Tyler Stone, who was the league’s No. 5 scorer (18.3 ppg) last season while with the Chiba Jets, has finalized a deal to join the Shimane Susanoo Magic, according to asia-basket.com.

The Southeast Missouri State alum has played for Hapoel Galil Gilboa to open the 2017-18 campaign, leading the Israeli club in points (20.3 and rebounds (9.4) in seven games.

With a 4-13 start this season, the Susanoo Magic could use a spark.

Schedule update

This weekend marks a break in the regular season for the 18 B1 teams and 18 B2 clubs.

Meanwhile, the Japan men’s national team, also known as the Akatsuki Five, is gearing up to face the Philippines on Friday at 7 p.m. in a 2019 FIBA Wold Cup qualifier at Komazawa Olympic Park Gymnasium. Japan coach Julio Lamas’ club then travels to face Australia in Adelaide on Monday in another 7 p.m. contest.

The international contests will provide a different showcase for many of the B. League’s top stars.

After the bye week, the league resumes its regular-season slate of games on Dec. 1, with a trio of series openers: Kawasaki vs. Shibuya, Osaka vs. Nishinomiya and Shimane vs. Hokkaido.

Passion to teach

Throughout his pro career, veteran point guard Kazuyuki Nakagawa, now 35, embraced opportunity after opportunity to teach the finer points of the game to younger players. As an extension of his love for the sport, the savvy Earthfriends Tokyo Z playmaker, who’s sidelined with a right knee injury, has established the Kaz Basketball Academy and produced a DVD to illustrate the fundamentals of ball handling.

Nakagawa’s website’s prominent section, kaz-nakagawa.com/ballhandling, includes ample examples and teaching points for students of the game (in Japanese), demonstrating what he learned in stints in the ABA, bj-league, JBL, NBL and B. League, plus repetition and refinement.

Down Under news

Former San-en star Josh Childress is playing for the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s National Basketball League this season. Through Nov. 18, he had appeared in three games while averaging 6.0 points, 3.3 boards and 2.0 assists and shooting 57 percent from the floor.

Before suiting up for the NeoPhoenix last season, the well-traveled former NBA forward competed for the Sydney Kings from 2014-16.