When Seiya Ando left the Akita Northern Happinets last summer to join the Alvark Tokyo for the 2017-18 campaign, it was an intriguing move to follow.

Nothing has changed.

Ando’s development as a young, on-the-rise star has been a key aspect of the Alvark’s successful season.

An energetic, aggressive playmaker, Ando has fit in well with the new-look Alvark as first-year bench boss Luka Pavicevic put his own stamp on the team.

Before he ever played a game for Tokyo, Ando expressed his outlook this way: I would like to devote full effort in every game to win.”

Indeed, he has been one of the tone-setting players for the Alvark, who are 31-11 and tied with the Chiba Jets Funabashi for the top record in the six-team East Division.

The 25-year-old offensive quarterback is averaging 9.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the title-chasing Alvark.

A season ago, he averaged 10.6, 4.5 and 3.0.

He’s displayed a mental toughness to go along with his solid all-around skills. A recent fractured cheek bone sent Ando to the sideline for a few games and caused him to miss a month of practices. He’s scored in double figures in three of the last four games, including two 17-point outputs, one shy of his season-best total.

A maturing player, Ando is showing signs of reaching the top echelon of Japanese points guards in the league.

By all accounts, consistency will be a key to make it happen.

Teammate Jawad Williams is pleased with the impact Ando is making for the club.

After Sunday’s 75-67 victory over the visiting Sunrockers Shibuya, Williams said, “Seiya is our floor general. He’s a very good player in transition, in halfcourt. He creates a lot of (scoring opportunities) for us. My last 3 (a key fourth-quarter basket for Tokyo) that I hit was solely because of him. I remember telling him at halftime, ‘I won’t miss another one.’ He was able to find me and I made it.”

Has Ando grown in confidence since the team came together for preseason training?

“Yeah, I think he’s more comfortable,” said Williams, a former NBA player. “When you play for a coach like the coach we have, he’s tough, it’s a different style of basketball . . . and Seiya’s adjusting to the way he wants him to play. I think it showed in this game he’s definitely one of the better guards here in the league.”

Analyzing the way the Tokyo native managed the shot clock and set up his teammates with passes in the series finale on Sunday, Pavicevic gave this assessment to reporters: “Well, to be honest, Seiya has space to improve in his decision making and his decision planning and especially in prior to making those decisions.

“But how can I say it? Seiya is the motor of this team, but not only in the game but on the practice (court), and sometimes even if he doesn’t recognize how, he wins the game by pure will…”

Pavicevic believes Ando’s potential is quite high.

Making the decision to pursue Ando for this season, Pavicevic noted that “a player like him will learn to read and make decisions … and a player without this will cannot play with the power that he plays with.”

As the Alvark strive to maintain their position in the playoff hunt, Pavicevic can’t overlook the role that Ando has played.

“He has helped us tremendously to win important games,” the coach said.

Getting acclimated

Former NBA forward Al Thornton has played four games since joining the Shimane Susanoo Magic.

Last weekend, his second in a Shimane uniform, Thornton displayed the scoring prowess that the struggling team is looking for. He had 17 points in 16-plus minutes on Saturday against the Jets. On Sunday, Thornton, a Florida State alum, made his first start for the Magic and scored 19 points in 20 minutes.

By the numbers

The top five scorers are Niigata’s Davante Gardner (29.5 ppg), Kawasaki’s Nick Fazekas (25.6), Hokkaido’s Marc Trasolini (18.5), Shimane’s Josh Scott (17.9) and Chiba’s Gavin Edwards (17.8).

The leading rebounds are Scott (10.9), Fazekas (10.8), Tochigi’s Ryan Rossiter (10.7), Gardner (9.9) and Mikawa’s Isaac Butts (9.5).

The top five assist men are Toyama’s Naoki Uto (7.3), Shiga’s Narito Namizato (6.8), Niigata’s Kei Igarashi (5.6), Tokyo’s Daiki Tanaka (5.3) and Mikawa’s J.R. Sakuragi (5.1).

The league leaders in steals are Nishinomiya’s Draelon Burns (1.69), Trasolini and Chiba’s Michael Parker (1.64), Shibuya’s Leo Vendrame (1.54) and Namizato (1.41).

The top five in blocked shots are Yokohama’s Hasheem Thabeet (2.4),Shiga’s D’or Fischer (2.2), Trasolini (1.4, Edwards (1.3) and Ryukyu’s Hassan Martin (1.2).

On a roll

SeaHorses Mikawa coach Kimikazu Suzuki’s team won its 10th consecutive game on Monday, pounding the visiting Levanga Hokkaido 95-80. All five Mikawa starters scored in double figures. Butts led the way with 26 points and pulled down 18 rebounds (vacuuming 11 off the offensive glass). Sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru added 21 points, Sakuragi and Ryoma Hashimoto both had 16 and Makoto Hiejima added 14.

At 34-8, the SeaHorses have the league’s best record and are, it says here, the clear-cut favorite to capture the title in late May.

In addition to being the second-highest Japanese scorer in B1 (behind Uto, 16.3), Kanamaru is chasing a rare double: free-throw shooting crown and 3-point shooting percentage title. Entering this weekend’s action, he’s No. 1 at the line at 93.3 percent and tops from long range at 42.6 percent.

The SeaHorses lead the top flight in scoring (85.0 ppg).They are No. 2 rebounds (39.3) and third in assists (20.1).

A look ahead

This weekend’s slate of games tips off on Friday, when Kawasaki plays host to Shiga. A day later, the series openers are as follows: Nagoya vs. Yokohama, Chiba vs. Tochigi, Nishinomiya vs. Tokyo, San-en vs. Niigata, Osaka vs. Kyoto, Hokkaido vs. Toyama, Shibuya vs. Mikawa and Ryukyu vs. Shimane.


Contact the reporter at: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp

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