A roundup of recent developments in the world of Japanese hoops, and with Japanese players making their mark over in the U.S.:
- The Eneos Sunflowers extended their title streak to eight at the All-Japan Championship on Sunday, with an 87-80 victory over the Toyota Antelopes in Tokyo. What made this record 25th Empress’ Cup win more impressive, writes Kaz Nagatsuka, is that it was achieved without star Ramu Tokashiki — who suffered a torn ACL in Wednesday’s quarterfinal — and other core players.
- Meanwhile, in the men’s game, the Nishinomiya Storks and Ibaraki Robots were censured by the B. League earlier this month for letting their import players join team practices before their 14-day quarantine periods were up. League officials say they recognize that the public may consider the punishment — requiring each club to submit a written apology — to be too light, writes Nagatsuka, but hey, no laws were broken.
- Moving on to the men’s national team, FIBA has decided that Japan will host the remaining 10 Group B contests in the final window of FIBA Asia Cup qualifying from Feb. 18-22, writes Nagatsuka. The preliminaries for next summer’s tournament kicked off last February, but many games were postponed due to the pandemic. The Akatsuki Five will play five games in February — all with home advantage.
- Keisei Tominaga is excited to be on the way to the next stage of his career after signing a National Letter of Intent to transfer to the University of Nebraska next season. “I’m thrilled to be able to play in Division I of the NCAA from next year,” Tominaga told Nagatsuka. Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg seems confident about Tominaga’s prospects: They introduced the 19-year-old as the “Japanese Steph Curry,” calling him “one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen.”
- Other Japanese players who have competed at the D-I level include Rui Hachimura, now a Washington Wizard, and Yuta Watanabe, who has just signed a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors. As Dan Orlowitz reports, the unprecedented interest in Hachimura in Japan led the Wizards to do something no other NBA team before them had attempted: A full-court Japanese-language marketing press, including the creation of a new localized Twitter account.