Basketball / B. League

Nomoto provides spark for Akita

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Whether he’s on the court or on the bench, Kengo Nomoto has been a spark plug for the Akita Northern Happinets.

When he hits the floor, the 201-cm forward is one of the team’s most active and aggressive Japanese players. In fact, he’s often matched up against import players, and doesn’t back away from the challenge.

Nomoto considers this part of his role, and that by doing so he can contribute to the team by allowing the foreign players to get some rest.

Nomoto may be aggressive, but he’s not reckless. After a game against the Yokohama B-Corsairs last month, the 27-year-old veteran said he tries to make decision about the way he played based on the team Akita is facing and who he’s matched up against.

“I’m facing different players every game, so I try to scout their traits and see what I can do against them,” said Nomoto, who has averaged 3.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in the 2019-20 season. “If he’s not so fast, I can go drive in, and if he’s fast, we want to be smart and maybe attack from a two-on-two look or something. I try to think about how I should capitalize on my own strengths, playing in our offensive formations.”

Akita is competing in the East Division, inarguably the toughest of the three B. League conferences. The Tohoku club is currently 18-21 and in fifth place in the division, which is loaded with powerhouses such as the Alvark Tokyo, Utsunomiya Brex and Chiba Jets Funabashi. The team’s winning percentage would place it in the runner-up spot in the Central Division.

So realistically speaking, making the postseason appears to be a daunting task for the Northern Happinets.

The regular season has currently been suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak and the playoff format could be tweaked, up to and including replacing the tournament with a title game. The league hopes to announce its plans regarding the playoffs next week.

But regardless of how slim his team’s postseason chances might be, Nomoto never puts his head down and keeps providing positive energy to his teammates. The Aoyama Gakuin University alum added that he and the other Northern Happinets would have a one-game-at-a-time attitude and prepare the best they can going in every game for the remainder of the year.

“I can take every shot I make or grab every rebound because of the support of my teammates,” said Nomoto, who moved to Akita before the 2018-19 campaign after playing for the Kawasaki Brave Thunders for four seasons. “So my appreciation toward them has grown even more as I’ve gotten older. And we all think that we are playing with the entire squad, and I’d like to provide any possible support to my teammates.”

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