Basketball / B. League

Fans select Takehiko Orimo for All-Star Game

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Stars from the Japan national team and domestic legend Takehiko Orimo will headline the roster for the upcoming B. League All-Star Game in Sapporo, organizers revealed on Monday.

Each side consists of five starters chosen through fan voting and six others selected by the league. Two additional selections, to be decided through voting on social media, will be announced Wednesday.

The players will be divided into the B. White and B. Black squads for the game, which will take place on Jan. 18 at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center in Sapporo.

The Utsunomiya Brex, one of Japan’s most popular clubs, will provide four of the B. Black’s five starters in guard Makoto Hiejima and forwards Kosuke Takeuchi, Ryan Rossiter and Jeff Gibbs. Levanga Hokkaido guard Orimo, who will retire at the end of the 2019-20 season, is the sole non-Brex starter.

Three Kawasaki Brave Thunders players — guard Ryusei Shinoyama, center Nick Fazekas and forward Naoya Kumagae — will join Chiba Jets star guard Yuki Togashi and SeaHorses Mikawa sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru to form the B. White starting lineup.

Kanamaru accumulated the most votes (73,970) overall, while Rossiter received the most for the B. Black (66,297). Orimo led the B. Black’s guards with 58,932.

Shinoyama, Hiejima and five other All-Star selections also represented Japan at this year’s FIBA World Cup in China.

Despite Brex players making up the majority of the B. Black starting lineup, the spotlight of the league’s fourth All-Star Game will likely be on the 49-year-old Orimo, who also serves as Levanga’s president.

Hiejima said while he was honored to receive the fan vote and represent Utsunomiya, he hopes to keep the focus on Orimo, who is known for his phenomenal long-range shooting ability.

“This is Orimo’s last year in the All-Star Game and I’m proud to join him on the court,” Hiejima said at a Tokyo news conference. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to make good assists for him.”

Takeuchi, who played with Orimo for Japan at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, was thrilled to once again don the same jersey as his former teammate.

“I’ve been a professional player for 13 years and I’m extremely happy that I will be playing on the same team with Orimo,” Takeuchi said. “Hopefully, we, the B. Black, will win the game to give him a good farewell.”

An eight-time All-Star MVP in Japan’s top men’s circuits, including the Japan Basketball League, Orimo will compete in the B. League All-Star Game for the first time and hopes to win his ninth accolade in front of his home crowd.

“This is my 27th season (in a top league), and I’ve played in so many All-Star Games,” said Orimo, “But this is my first and final B. League All-Star Game. It’s exciting for me to be able to play with the young players. Although I’m 49 years old, I still feel excited about it. I can play in my last All-Star Game in our hometown, and hopefully it’s going to be the best event it can be.”

Asahi Tajima (Levanga), Joji Takeuchi (Alvark Tokyo), Daiki Tanaka (Alvark), Ryo Tawatari (Yokohama B-Corsairs), Naoki Uto (Toyama Grouses) and Ira Brown (Osaka Evessa) round out the B. Black squad.

For the B. White, Masashi Hosoya (Akita Northern Happinets), Sebastian Saiz (Sunrockers Shibuya), Davante Gardner (SeaHorses), Tenketsu Harimoto (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins), Avi Koki Schafer (Shiga Lakestars) and Naoki Tashiro (Ryukyu Golden Kings) were also selected.

Luka Pavicevic of the two-time defending B. League champion Alvark and Atsushi Ono, who has led the runner-up Jets the last two years, will be the head coaches for the B. Black and B. White, respectively.

The All-Star festivities will also feature a skills challenge, dunk contest and 3-point contest.