Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Toyama's Satoru Maeta making most of playing time in second season

by Ed Odeven

A few up-and-coming players’ names appear on the list of top Japanese scorers this season. They join many established players in providing an offensive spark for their respective teams.

Chiba Jets guard Yuki Togashi is setting the pace with 14.8 points per game, first among Japanese players in the 18-team first division. SeaHorses Mikawa standout Kosuke Kanamaru is No. 2 at 14.3 ppg.

After a move to the Kyoto Hannaryz from the SeaHorses Mikawa in the offseason, Keijuro “K.J.” Matsui, a Columbia University alum, has enjoyed a strong start to the new season, posting a 12.7 ppg average.

Alvark Tokyo guard Seiya Ando has helped the two-time reigning champions not skip a beat with the summer departure of Yudai Baba to the NBA G League’s Texas Legends. Ando is scoring 12.6 ppg. What’s more, steady backcourt mate Daiki Tanaka is not far behind in the scoring department (12.1 per game).

Nagoya Diamond Dolphins Shuto Ando, a perimeter gunner who has already launched 108 3-pointers in 16 games, is averaging 12.4 ppg.

Others near the top of the list include: Leo Vendrame of the Sunrockers Shibuya (12.1), Naoki Uto of the Toyama Grouses (11.8), Ryuichi Kishimoto of the Ryukyu Golden Kings (11.5) and Yuma Fujii of the Kawasaki Brave Thunders (11.3).

Not to be overlooked is Grouses small forward Satoru Maeta, a second-year pro who’s scoring 11.1 ppg. The 22-year-old Yamagata Prefecture native, who has made nine starts in 16 games, had a season-high 22 points against the San-en NeoPhoenix on Oct. 5. He’s had double-digit scoring outings in five straight games, including 19 on Nov. 17, when he drained 4 of 6 3-point attempts. It was Toyama’s most recent game before the autumn break. (B. League clubs are gearing up for All-Japan Basketball Championship games this weekend.)

Maeta saw court time in just seven regular-season games last season, and so this season provides the first extended opportunity to see his talents on display. The Aoyama Gakuin University product is playing about 25½ minutes a game.

Fellow youngster Yuta Okada of the SeaHorses, who had an eye-opening start to his career as a rookie last season, is contributing 10.9 ppg. He’s still just 21.

Sacre’s new podcast

Retired center Robert Sacre, a fan favorite during his three seasons with the Sunrockers Shibuya, is working on a new podcast devoted to his alma mater.

The Gonzaga University-focused podcast “Bleav in the Zags” has four recorded episodes. The show, which launched earlier this month, is featured on the Bleav Podcast Network.

Sacre who retired during the offseason, is joined on the podcast by journalist Jack Ferris.

On the most recent episode, Sacre recounted how he was about 10 minutes late for a Sunrockers practice in April 2017 because he had been watching Gonzaga play in the NCAA Championship game against the University of North Carolina.

“It was 10 a.m. We had a practice,” he recalled on the podcast. “I remember we had film session, but I’m like, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve got to watch these Zags.’ “

Their latest podcast also included a brief discussion of adult beverages they sometimes enjoy while watching basketball games.

Said Ferris: “If I ruled the world, eggnog would not be seasonal.”

Coaching adjustments

In a revealing article published this month by The Pick And Roll, an Australian basketball website, Shiga Lakestars coach Shawn Dennis discussed the coaching adjustments he’s made since becoming the Lakestars bench boss before the 2017-18 campaign.

Dennis, who’s in his third season at the helm, said his basic approach in leading the Lakestars and the Townsville Crocodiles in his native Australia is quite different.

“My wife jokingly said that a lot of people in Australia wouldn’t recognize me on the sidelines,” Dennis who coached the NBL’s Crocodiles from 2013 to 2016 before becoming an assistant coach for the Tochigi Brex for one season, told the website. “I’ve become a lot calmer. Also, I think I’ve become a better teacher because of that language barrier and trying to find different ways to teach aspects of the game.

“I was quite animated and passionate on the sidelines (in Australia) and would get into it. (But) in Japan you can’t be like that. They confuse that passion for anger, so they think you are getting angry, and they don’t realize that you are actually in full control.”

As a result of his move to Japan, away from the comfort zone of speaking English to native speakers all the time, Dennis believes he’s elevated his coaching.

“I think I’m a far better coach now than when I arrived (in Japan) four years ago. I’ve been forced to educate myself more to try and find ways to better teach the guys what we are trying to do,” Dennis told The Pick And Roll.

“The international stage teaches you more and you’re forced to learn more.”