Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Fourth season set to commence Oct. 3

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The first three seasons in league history zoomed by — or so it seemed — in the blink of an eye, with new stars emerging before our eyes and dominant teams and individuals producing many unforgettable moments and games.

Team and league officials are now busy preparing for the start of season No. 4.

It begins in 12 weeks.

The league unveiled the opening week schedule on Monday.

The season-opening game on Oct. 3, a Thursday, is set to be played at Yokohama Arena, where the B. League Final was held in 2018 and 2019.

The Kawasaki Brave Thunders and Utsunomiya Brex (previously the Tochigi Brex) will meet in the opener. Tipoff is 7:05 p.m.

Kawasaki enters the new campaign with Kenji Sato, previously a longtime assistant for the club, making his debut as bench boss.

The Brex, coming off a 49-11 season, defeated the Brave Thunders in the inaugural season’s title contest.

Other opening matchups on Oct. 5 are: Akita Northern Happinets vs. Osaka Evessa, two-time defending champion Alvark Tokyo vs. Niigata Albirex BB, Sunrockers Shibuya vs. Chiba Jets Funabashi, Toyama Grouses vs. San-en NeoPhoenix, Kyoto Hannaryz vs. Shiga Lakestars, Shimane Susanoo Magic vs. Nagoya Diamond Dolphins and Ryukyu Golden Kings vs. SeaHorses Mikawa. The Levanga Hokkaido begin their season on Oct. 6 against the visiting Yokohama B-Corsairs.

The B2 is set to get underway on Sept. 20, with the reigning playoff champion Shinshu Brave Warriors taking on the visiting Hiroshima Dragonflies. The other 16 teams are set to open their season the next day.

Name change

As mentioned above, the Brex, who joined the JBL2 in 2007, have changed the geographic portion of their name.

The Brex, who were also known by a formal name that included their sponsor (Link Tochigi Brex), are the latest club to adapt a more specific name as the league evolves to showcase ties to teams’ hometowns.

“In order to grow further in the future, we will report that we will change the team name to ‘Utsunomiya Brex’ from the 2019-20 season,” the team stated in a news release.

Elaborating on that decision, the Brex explained the change in the release, noting that while the team has been active in “Utsunomiya until now,” this change solidifies that relationship with their hometown city.

Peppers joins Grouses

Well-traveled forward Josh Peppers played an instrumental role in helping the Koshigaya Alphas earn promotion to the second division in May.

In his one season with the Alphas, the University of Central product provided noteworthy leadership and all-around productivity.

Now, he’s on the move again.

The Toyama Grouses on Wednesday announced that Peppers has joined the club for the 2019-20 campaign.

The Grouses become the seventh Japanese team that Peppers, now 34, will play for. He made his bj-league debut in 2007 with the expansion Rizing Fukuoka. Before the B. League era tipped off, he also suited up for the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, Sendai 89ers, Shiga Lakestars and Iwate Big Bulls. His third stint with Fukuoka lasted from 2014 to 2018, and he was a driving force behind the team’s promotion from B3 to B2 to B1.

“I am very thankful to continue my 13th season here in Japan and become a part of the Toyama Grouses for the upcoming 2019-20 season,” Peppers said in a statement. “I will do all that I can to contribute in the best way possible.”

The 200-cm Peppers averaged 18.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game this past season.

Preseason tournaments

The B. League Early Cup, featuring six tournaments around the country, is set for Sept. 14 to 16.

The Tohoku tourney in Sendai features the B2’s Sendai 89ers, Yamagata Wyverns, Aomori Wat’s and Fukushima Firebonds and two top-flight squads, the Levanga Hokkaido and Akita Northern Happinets, who are now led by new head coach Kenzo Maeda.

The Kanto event in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, involves six B1 clubs: Chiba Jets Funabashi, Utsunomiya, Alvark Tokyo, Yokohama B-Corsairs, Sunrockers Shibuya and Kawasaki Brave Thunders.

The Hokushinetsu tourney in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, has four B2 clubs (Kanazawa Samuraiz, Hachioji Bee Trains, Shinshu Brave Warriors and Gunma Crane Thunders) and a pair from the first division (Niigata Albirex BB, Toyama Grouses).

The Tokai extravaganza in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, includes a trio of B2 outfits (Nagoya Fighting Eagles, Ibaraki Robots and Earthfriends Tokyo Z) plus the top flight’s SeaHorses Mikawa, Nagoya Diamond Dolphins and San-en NeoPhoenix.

The Kansai event in Osaka has two B2 teams (Nishinomiya Storks, Bambitious Nara) and a quartet of B1 clubs (Kyoto Hannaryz, Ryukyu Golden Kings, Osaka Evessa and Shiga Lakestars) penciled in on the schedule.

The Nishinihon tourney in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, involves the B2’s Kumamoto Volters, Shimane Susanoo Magic, Hiroshima Dragonflies, Kagawa Five Arrows, Ehime Orange Vikings and Fukuoka.

Suda’s perspective

In an interview with basketballking.jp that was posted online this week, Alvark newcomer Yutaro Suda offered his viewpoints of his new team.

Asked what his impressions are of the organization, the 187-cm Suda was quoted as saying, “There is an impression of a very smart (basketball team), and on top of that there is also intensity. I was looking at it from the outside and I wanted to be the same.”

When the topic turned to Alvark bench boss Luka Pavicevic and his intense practices, the 27-year-old swingman, who spent the past two seasons with the Golden Kings, acknowledged he’s aware of them.

“The result of continuous victory comes out because there is severe practice,” Suda told Basketball King. “I also want to (test) my strength in a tough environment, extend and contribute to the third consecutive victory.”

Feedback

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