Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Well-traveled bench boss Josep 'Pep' Claros takes over in Fukuoka

by Ed Odeven

The Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka have turned to Josep “Pep” Claros to orchestrate a turnaround for the struggling B2 club.

It’s another reclamation project for the well-traveled Spaniard, who was named the team’s new coach on Tuesday. He replaces another Spaniard, Iurgi Caminos, who was in his first season at the helm for the Kyushu-based club.

Team management announced that it had terminated Caminos’ contract on the same day, calling it a “mutual agreement.”

Fukuoka (8-24) sits in last place in the six-team West Division in the second division.

“I’m extremely happy to be back in Fukuoka,” Claros said in a team-issued statement. “I have different goals at this moment. Our primary goal is to show the character (that) will allow us to win games.

“As a mid-term goal, (it) is to be the best in the league. An ultimate goal is to be in the top five of Japan in the following seasons. To achieve that, we need to keep our fans and bring more people to the arena because all of that must be together.”

Claros served as Fukuoka coach for the final 12 games of the 2015-16 bj-league season, and the team went 6-6 to close out the season. As a result, Fukuoka reached the playoffs, extending its streak of consecutive postseason appearances to nine in the final bj-league season.

In two seasons with the Akita Northern Happinets, Claros, now 51, had mixed results.

He led Akita to a 54-6 record in the second division in the 2017-18, guiding the team’s promotion to the top flight. Last season, the Northern Happinets went 17-43 in B1 in his second and final season in charge.

Claros’ coaching career has included stints in numerous countries, including Canada, El Salvador, Mexico, Venezuela, Portugal, the Netherlands and Bahrain.

Toews’ pro debut

Utsunomiya Brex rookie point guard Kai Toews made his pro debut on Wednesday against the visiting Sunrockers Shibuya.

It was a solid performance.

Toews, a Tokyo native, saw 20-plus minutes of court time in the Brex’s 88-84 loss. The former University of North Carolina Wilmington standout had 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting with two assists, one rebound, one steal and one turnover.

With 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Toews scored his first points as a pro player by knocking down a 3-pointer against the Sunrockers, who captured the Emperor’s Cup title on Sunday.

“I couldn’t practice (a lot) with the team, but it was really easy because everyone has a high basketball IQ and anticipated plays,” Toews told reporters after the game, reflecting on the experience. “The atmosphere in the venue was fantastic. I want to keep playing aggressive (basketball).”