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Friday, Oct. 5, 2007

BJ-LEAGUE

JBL chief declares a new beginning


Staff writer

Although its name has been tweaked just a little bit, the nation's top hoop circuit is hoping to make big changes in a bid to boost the Japanese basketball scene.

Fumiya Tamiaki, chairman of the Japan Basketball League — formally the Japan Basketball League Super League — declared a new beginning for the organization Thursday.

"Our objective is to establish a league that can hold good in the world," Tamiaki said at a Tokyo news conference.

The league is to be made up of eight clubs, with the addition of Sapporo-based Rera Kamuy Hokkaido. Each team will play 35 games (two at home, two away and one at a neutral venue against each team) in the regular season, followed by a four-team playoff in March.

The inaugural 2007-08 season will tip off with an opening game between the Hitachi Sunrockers and Aisin Sea Horses at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Oct. 11.

While most of the teams will aiming to get the glory as first-year champions the Toyota Alvark, back-to-back Super League champions, should be the team to watch in the first year.

Even so, the Alvark lost national-team players Takehiko Orimo (guard) and Ryota Sakurai (guard) to Rera Kamuy and Daiji Yamada (forward/center) in this offseason and so competition is expected to be tough.

"The team looks OK, though there are little problems," Toyota's German head coach Torsten Loibl said. "We hope to be where we want to be in the end."

Meanwhile, newcomer Rera Kamuy, the only team to join the league as a pure professional club not sponsored by a major company, has drawn most interest from the media.

Tomoya Higashino, head man of the northern team, said his charges still have a lot to learn having not competed up to know but he hopes to make up the gap on the other teams through a lot of training.

"I'm telling my players to take each possession seriously," said Higashino, ex-assistant coach for the national team guided by Zeljko Pavlicevic at at last year's World Championship in Japan.

"Nevertheless, it's outrageous for us to fight evenly against the other teams that have built years of history in this league."

After Hitachi and Aisin take the court first, the other clubs start their season on Oct. 13 when the Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Dolphins take on Rera Kamuy, OSG Phoenix play the Toshiba Brave Thunders and the Panasonic Trians face the Alvark.

The JBL also announced it will advertise for applications from companies which would like to join the league as an expansion team from the 2009-10 season. The application period will be between Oct. 9 and March 31, with the new club determined by June 30.



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