Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Hokkaido adds Markeith Cummings in bid to right ship

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

After winning just 10 of 60 games this past season, the Levanga Hokkaido are aiming to flip the script.

For Tomohide Utsumi’s first full season as head coach, Hokkaido is revamping its roster. Among the changes: the East Division squad on Wednesday announced the signing of veteran power forward Markeith Cummings.

The 192-cm Cummings was one of the top newcomers in the B. League last season. He averaged 23.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 36 games for the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins. He had a 42-point game against the Toyama Grouses in November.

He left the Diamond Dolphins in mid-March. As they made a late push to qualify for the playoffs, the Diamond Dolphins utilized a bigger lineup, featuring 211-cm former NBA center Hilton Armstrong in the closing weeks of the season and in the postseason.

The 30-year-old Cummings has plied his craft in the NBA G League and in Poland, Egypt, Lebanon and Greece, among other places. Before turning pro, he played ball at Kennesaw (Georgia) State University.

New Fukuoka boss

Ryuji Kawai and Bob Nash both spent time as Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka head coaches last season, with Kawai getting dismissed in October.

The 2019-20 Fukuoka squad, with Jun Nakanishi in his first full season as general manager, will also have a new bench boss.

The team, which went 12-48, was demoted to the B. League second division.

Spaniard Iurgi Caminos was appointed as Nash’s replacement on Tuesday.

“I’m very happy for signing with Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka for this season,” Caminos said in a statement. “I would like to thank all members of the team for choosing me to be the head coach and trusting in me to help grow the organization. I will do my best so that the fans of Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka feel proud of the team and fight every day to achieve victory.”

Caminos worked as an associate head coach for the WJBL’s Denso Iris last season. In 2017-18, he was an assistant for Baskonia in the Spanish League. From 2015-16, he served as head coach for the Basque Country U-20 national team.

The 40-year-old Caminos posted testimonials about his coaching background from several individuals, including former NBA players Tiago Splitter and Pablo Prigioni, on his website.

“Iurgi Caminos is a talented young coach, who knows how to get the best out of his players,” Splitter said. “He is technically sound on and off the court, prepared for every situation. Most importantly he wants to win and knows how to do it while maintaining the integrity of the game. His love for the game will allow him to be successful wherever he coaches.”

Kinjo’s new home

Shooting guard Shigeyuki Kinjo, a fan favorite throughout the Ryukyu Golden Kings’ first dozen seasons, has left Okinawa for the next chapter of his basketball career.

This week, the Sendai 89ers and Kinjo finalized a deal for the upcoming season. With the move, he reunites with former Kings coach Dai Oketani, who’s entering his second season in charge of the B2 club.

Kinjo, who wore No. 6 for the Okinawa-based club, now switches to jersey No. 26.

“I am very happy and grateful that I can work with all of the Sendai 89ers,” Kinjo said in a statement. “We will prepare well from the summer and devote all effort to the team to win B2.”

Kinjo, 34, joined Ryukyu for the team’s inaugural 2007-08 season. Before a slew of knee injuries, he was an explosive scorer. He missed most of the 2009-10 bj-league season and all of the 2011-12 campaign due to injuries.

In recent years, Kinjo was a scrappy defender and valuable mentor off the bench for Ryukyu.

“His biggest adjustment was learning how to be a great high-level execution defender,” longtime Kings assistant coach Keith Richardson told The Japan Times in a March 2016 interview. “If you ask any coach what they would take first on their team, a good offensive player or a great defensive player, and I think we all know that answer to that if they really want to win it all.”

Alvark update

The two-time reigning champion Alvark Tokyo finalized a contract renewal with starting center Alex Kirk last week. Kirk manned the middle during each of the team’s title-winning seasons.

The University of New Mexico alum posted averages of 17.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 59 games last season. He had 15 points, nine boards and two blocks against the Chiba Jets Funabashi in the title match on May 11.

On Tuesday, the Alvark announced that ex-NBA forward Jeff Ayres, who suited up for Ryukyu last season, has agreed to a deal to return to Tokyo.

The 31-year-old Ayres played for the Alvark in 2017, then went to Turkey for the 2017-18 campaign. While with Tokyo two years ago, he appeared in 23 games to close out the season, averaging 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds.

Playing for Ryukyu, Ayres appeared in 52 games (39 starts). He contributed 15.2 points and 9.2 rebounds while converting 40.6 percent of his 3-point shots (78 of 192).

“I am honored and happy to be given the opportunity to play as a member of Alvark Tokyo, the champion team for two consecutive seasons,” said Ayres in a news release.

Montenegrin forward Milko Bjelica, meanwhile, has left the Alvark after one season. He will suit up for KK Mornar Bar in the Montenegrin League in this coming season.

Kinoshita retires

Well-traveled point guard Hiroyuki Kinoshita posted on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon that he was retiring.

Kinoshita, 39, spent the past three seasons with the Osaka Evessa. In his final season, he averaged 6.3 points and 3.8 assists in 41 games.

In 2002, he began his career with the then-Panasonic Super Kangaroos in the JBL and remained with the Osaka-based franchise, then called the Trians for more than a decade. He then played for the newly relocated Wakayama Trians in 2013-14 before a two-season stint with the Hitachi Sunrockers in the NBL. Kinoshita was twice named to the JBL’s Best Five Team.

Kings sign Cooley

Ryukyu signed veteran center Jack Cooley this week, adding him to a roster that also now includes new power forward De’Mon Brooks.

Cooley, 28, played for Banco di Sardegna Sassari in the Italian League last season.

The University of Notre Dame product appeared in 16 games for the Utah Jazz in the 2014-15 season. He played seven games for the Sacramento Kings in 2017-18. He came off the bench in all 23 of his NBA games.

“I am very excited to start a new chapter of my career with such a top tier and professional organization,” Cooley said in a statement. “I have heard great things about the Golden Kings and only makes me more eager for the season.”

The 27-year-old Brooks, a Davidson College alum, spent the past three seasons with Medi Bayreuth of Germany’s top-tier Basketball Bundesliga.

Takeno joins Evessa staff

After beginning his coaching career as an assistant on Nishinomiya Storks bench boss Kensaku Tennichi’s staff in 2017, Akitomo Takeno spent two seasons in that role for the Kansai-area club.

Tennichi became the Evessa sideline supervisor last week, and Takeno is reuniting with him on the Osaka staff.

The Evessa made the announcement on Thursday.

The 33-year-old Takeno, a cerebral guard with a knack for knocking down outside shots, played his final season under Tennichi in the 2016-17 B. League campaign. He retired due to knee injuries.

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