Only a few weeks into the season, some B. League players already have to say farewell to their teammates and coaches.

With import players whose arrivals were delayed by COVID-19 travel restrictions finally able to join their clubs, the majority of teams are on the verge of competing with full-strength squads if they haven’t reached that point already.

But that means that it’s time for other imports who have played as alternate players through the league’s exceptional COVID regulations to leave.

One such player is 207-cm center Muusa Dama. He was acquired by the Sunrockers Shibuya in late September on loan from the third division’s Veltex Shizuoka and played his last game as a member of the East Conference club on Wednesday.

The Beninese played with the same energy that he’d shown to his team throughout his loan, putting sentiments aside during an eventual 95-87 loss to the Kawasaki Brave Thunders at Sumida City Gymnasium.

After the game, Dama admitted that he did feel emotional once the final buzzer rang.

“It was a short period of time,” Dama said of his stint with Shibuya. “But I’ve got attached to every single one of my teammates and coaching staff. There is a special bond between us. So leaving people that you care for, at the end of the day, you get emotional.”

Rather than tears filling his eyes, the 24-year-old was all smiles as he was presented with flowers in a postgame on-court ceremony.

“Like we say, it’s never a ‘Goodbye,’” Dama said. “It’s always ‘See you later.’”

Sunrockers center Muusa Dama holds the ball against the Brave Thunders on Wednesday. | KAZ NAGATSUKA
Sunrockers center Muusa Dama holds the ball against the Brave Thunders on Wednesday. | KAZ NAGATSUKA

The Eastern Illinois University alum knew his stint with Shibuya would be short; He was to fill its roster until former NBA power forward James Michael McAdoo, whose father is the second cousin of Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, arrived in Japan.

Nonetheless, Dama said that he liked the team’s culture, which made it possible for him to blend in well during his limited time.

“I feel like there’s a religion here, there is a way being a Sunrocker,” said Dama, who averaged 7.6 points and 5.7 rebounds playing in all seven of the team’s games so far this season. “You could feel it in the locker room. There’s close friendliness, everybody working together, talking, communicating, doing everything together and I think that’s beyond basketball because what you do (off) the court is going to translate onto the court. So honestly, they have my respect and I think it’s a great organization. And with that philosophy and ideology, they could definitely go for (the championship).”

Sunrockers head coach Tsutomu Isa was thankful for Dama for having been a big part of the team, which has started the 2020-21 campaign with a 3-4 record.

“He’s been an extremely professional player,” Isa said. “His attitude on and off the court was great. He kept playing, completely putting his ego aside. He didn’t do anything selfish and did everything I asked him to do to contribute to our team. So he’s been a great addition to our team.”

Added Shibuya guard Shuto Tawatari: “(Dama)’s genuinely devoted himself to our team and he’s a great, gentle guy off the court. So we definitely wanted to send him off in a winning fashion today, but ended up losing… But we want to say ‘Thank you’ to him.”

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