Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

NeoPhoenix turn to veteran coach Brian Rowsom in quest to make playoffs

by Ed Odeven

The San-en NeoPhoenix’s victory total has decreased in each season of the B. League era.

Therefore, team management decided it was time to make a coaching change, opting for a more experienced mentor to pilot the team.

Brian Rowsom, who guided the CLS Knights Indonesia to the ASEAN Basketball League title in mid-May, is San-en’s new bench boss, the Central Division team announced on Tuesday.

Hiroki Fujita, 33, is out after three seasons at the helm. His departure was revealed in late April after the team missed the playoffs.

The NeoPhoenix will look to reverse a trend under the 53-year-old Rowsom: They went 33-27 in the 2016-17 campaign, followed by a 25-35 record in 2017-18 and 22-38 this past season.

“I’m excited about the possibility of working with the staff and players at San-en and I promise to always do my best to make everyone proud of our team next season,” Rowsom said in a statement. “As a former NBA player and also player in Japan, I understand the love and passion for basketball in the beautiful country of Japan and that motivates me to want to bring a winning team to all of the NeoPhoenix fans.”

He added: “I told my team in Indonesia all season long that we can have a good season or we can make it a special season and by winning the championship there we made it a special season. I hope to do the same for San-en.”

Rowsom, a 206-cm forward, was a second-round pick (Indiana Pacers) out of the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 1987. He spent three seasons as an NBA player with the Pacers and Charlotte Hornets, joining the latter team in ’88 during its inaugural season. He suited up for the JBL’s Toshiba Red Thunders from 1995-98. His playing career also included stops in France, Israel and England, where he played his final season for the Manchester Giants in 1998-99.

Rowsom made his head coaching debut in 2004 with the Guelph Gladiators of the Ontario Professional Basketball Association. The well-traveled sideline supervisor also led teams in Qatar, Bahrain and Vietnam before taking over the CLS Knights last season.

He also served as an assistant coach for two seasons (2014-16) with the Toshiba Brave Thunders Kanagawa during the NBL era.

American challenge

Tochigi Brex guard Makoto Hiejima will participate in a Dallas Mavericks mini-camp on June 16-18 in Texas.

The 28-year-old star told reporters that he hopes to make a good impression at the mini-camp, using it as a springboard for hoop activity this summer.

“I want to aim for the (NBA) Summer League in July,” he added.

Lakestars sign Karimata

Former SeaHorses Mikawa captain Masaya Karimata has finalized a deal to play for the Shiga Lakestars next season, it was announced on Thursday.

The veteran point guard spent the past three seasons in a Mikawa uniform. He began his pro career in 2012 with the Jets, then played for the Ryukyu Golden Kings and Fukushima Firebonds before joining the SeaHorses.

“In our season review we wanted to recruit a player that could put extreme pressure on the ball. Karimata has this ability and will help us be a much more disruptive defensive team,” Lakestars coach Shawn Dennis said in a statement. “Karimata’s ability to knock down the 3-ball will be important in helping us create space in our offense and along with his leadership he will help us continue to build a winning culture.”

Suda joins Alvark

After two seasons with the Golden Kings, swingman Yutaro Suda has joined the two-time defending champion Alvark Tokyo.

The Alvark announced the move on Monday.

The 27-year-old Suda averaged 4.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 42 games (17 starts) this past season.

Before suiting up for Ryukyu, the 187-cm Suda spent the previous three seasons with the Brex.

Staying put

Veteran standouts Jeff Gibbs and Josh Harrellson are returning to their respective teams for the 2019-20 season, the teams revealed this week.

Gibbs, a 38-year-old frontcourt leader for the Brex, has played for the club since 2016. He averaged 13.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists for the playoff semifinalist squad.

The 30-year-old Harrellson, a former NBA player, led the B. League’s top flight in rebounds (12.3) while also averaging 15.2 points, 2.1 assists and 1.3 blocks in 2018-19 for the Osaka Evessa.

“I am very happy to be back in Osaka,” he said in a statement. “I love Osaka and I love the organization and the fans. I hope to bring Osaka a championship this season. I will do my best in every game and give Osaka 110 percent effort.”

The University of Kentucky alum also competed for the Evessa in the 2016-17 season, then moved to the Sunrockers Shibuya before moving back to Osaka.

Nash honored

Bob Nash, former head coach of the Saitama Broncos, Toyama Grouses and, most recently, Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka, has been honored as part of the 37th class of the University of Hawaii Sports Circle of Honor.

The university made the announcement on Sunday in Honolulu.

The 2019 Circle of Honor also includes champion diver Emma Friesen, former UH athletics director Hugh Yoshida and Carolyn Berry Wilson, a longtime booster.

Nash’s involvement with University of Hawaii basketball began in the early 1970s, when he was a dynamic forward for the school during the Fab 5 era. He was chosen No. 7 overall in the 1972 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. After his pro playing days, Nash worked as an assistant coach for 26 years before taking over as University of Hawaii head coach from 2007-10.

“It’s great to be recognized for my body of work,” Nash said in an email to The Japan Times, reflecting on the honor. “But I’m most proud of the people I have met and worked with on this incredible basketball journey.

“I look at myself as a life coach, not just a basketball coach. The lessons and strategies I teach are for growth as a person. My core belief is to work harder, be smarter and do it together for greater success. This can be applied to life or basketball.”

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