Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

B-Corsairs rookie forward Amanze Egekeze showing potential early in pro career

by Ed Odeven

After the Yokohama B-Corsairs’ fifth consecutive loss to open the season on Wednesday, first-year coach Tom Wisman analyzed the revamped team’s defensive struggles and overall shortcomings so far.

For instance, he said that he wasn’t pleased that the B-Corsairs gave up 48 points in the paint in their 88-84 defeat to the Toyama Grouses at Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium.

“We were playing a zone that is supposed to keep the ball out of the low post, and we are not getting that job done. … We got dominated by their two players, (Leo) Lyons and (Joshua) Smith,” Wisman said.

“We were unable to play them man-to-man,” he added candidly, noting the Grouses duo made a combined 17 of 21 shots in the paint.

What’s more, he pointed out, giving up 51 second-half points didn’t please him, either.

But Wisman also spoke about the solid play of rookie small forward Amanze Egekeze and his potential as a pro player. The Belmont University alumni finished with a team-high 23 points along with six rebounds and two blocks in just under 31 minutes.

“Amanze is a very mature 22-year-old,” Wisman told reporters. “I usually don’t like to take a player right out of university. I want them to have some professional experience, and Fess Irvin, our skills coach, convinced me that Amanze would be a mature 22 that would come in, and he’s been right on that call.”

Egekeze, whose parents are originally from Nigeria, energized Yokohama in the third quarter on Wednesday, scoring 14 of the team’s 29 points. In the high-paced period, he sank all four of his free-throw attempts, attacking the basket and showing good awareness of the team’s offense. More importantly, he was 4 of 4 from the floor, including two shots from 3-point range.

“Amanze has stepped right in and he’s a competitor,” Wisman commented, “and a really good person. And I think he’s adapted very well.”

The 203-cm Egekeze is averaging 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 blocks in four games (four starts). He’s shooting the ball well — 51.0 percent (26 of 51) from 2-point range, 42.0 percent (8 of 19) on 3-pointers and 78.6 percent (11 of 14) at the free-throw line.

“He needs to continue to get stronger,” Wisman said, “and I think he’s going to be a good one.”

In his first regular-season debut, Egekeze had 13 points and seven rebounds on Oct. 6 against Toyama. He then had 18 points and six boards in the series opener and 17 and 10 in the rematch against the host Kyoto Hannaryz last weekend.

Egekeze showed promise as a potential pro during his four years at Belmont, where he started 116 of 127 games. He increased his scoring output from 5.4 to 9.0 to 11.3 to 16.8 at the Nashville, Tennessee, school.

As a senior in the 2017-18 campaign, he had 19 double-figure scoring games, and was among the Ohio Valley Conference’s top five in 3-point field-goal percentage (42.5), field-goal percentage (64.0) and rebounding (10.5).

He attended Huntley High School near Chicago and earned Illinois all-state honorable mention accolades twice. Huntley captured four Fox Valley Conference crowns in Egekeze’s four seasons on the team.

Wednesday’s best

A quick rundown of some of the top individual performances from Wednesday’s nine B1 games:

Tochigi’s Ryan Rossiter — 35 points, 14 rebounds, three steals, two blocks

Tochigi’s Jeff Gibbs — 21 points, 16 rebounds

Kyoto’s David Simon — 34 points, 15-of-20 shooting

Kyoto’s Julian Mavunga — 22 points, 12 assists

Niigata’s Davante Gardner — 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists

Osaka’s Faye Pape Mour — 16 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks

Osaka’s Josh Harrellson — 17 points, 10 rebounds

Shiga’s D’or Fischer — 11 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists

Akita’s Justin Keenan — 25 points, 11 rebounds

Akita’s Takuya Nakayama, 10 points, four steals

Chiba’s Michael Parker — 30 points, 16 rebounds, four steals, three assists, three blocks

Tokyo’s Yudai Baba — 10 assists, one turnover

Kawasaki’s Vernon Macklin — 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists

Mikawa’s Kosuke Kanamaru — 21 points

Three-point woes

The San-en NeoPhoenix made 2 of 19 3s in a 61-48 loss to the Niigata Albirex BB on Wednesday.

Updated standings

Through five games in the books, here’s a look at each team’s record:

EAST — Tochigi (5-0), Tokyo (4-1), Chiba (3-2), Hokkaido (2-3), Akita (1-4), Shibuya (1-4)

CENTRAL — Niigata (4-1), Kawasaki (4-1), Toyama (3-2), San-en (1-4), Yokohama (0-5), Mikawa (0-5)

WEST — Osaka (4-1), Ryukyu (4-1), Kyoto (4-1), Nagoya (3-2), Shiga (2-3), Fukuoka (0-5)