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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nippon Tornadoes set to open first IBL season


Staff writer

International Basketball League's Nippon Tornadoes open their first season on Friday against the Vancouver Volcanoes at the O'Connell Sports Center in Vancouver, Wash. The Tornadoes will play 16 more games in a short summer season, wrapping up play on June 3 against the Oregon Waves.

The Tornadoes, operated by the Japan Basketball Academy, are based at the United States Basketball Academy in Oregon, their home away from home during the next several weeks.

Tornadoes coach Tatsumi Nishida is looking forward to this unique opportunity.

"The IBL is an official league where NBA players and other major basketball league players take part in during the offseason," Nishida said in a press release. "Pro teams from U.S., China, Canada will join the IBL. Now we have a team consisting of only Japanese players joining the IBL. I regard this as an ultimate case study for Japan to improve its playing level to that of the world.

"Most Japanese coaches think Japanese players have disadvantages in size, talent, power, speed, and give up trying," he continued. "Under those coaches, Japan's level will never be improved. Instead, by playing in the IBL, we can find what is our strength or weakness, what we need to improve, what kind of strategies or tactics we need and this is more important.

"An NCAA (Division I) coach I know said I'm impressed by Japanese players' work ethics, effort, and attitudes to care for the team. I want Japanese player(s) in my team.' Some NBA coach said, "I want to watch Japanese players. We don't care the height. If the player is an outstanding 3-pointer, we want him any time soon.'

"American coaches are more interested in us than we are in ourselves. I want to make this chance a case study for the future and a step to find Japanese players to be able to play in the NBA."

For its inaugural season, the Tornadoes have chosen a familiar theme to Japanese. Nishida calls it "Ninja basketball."

"The team will be built around Japanese-like team work and tricky offense and defense to counter opponents' individual skills, power (and) size," he added.

The Tornadoes will primarily play games in the United States' Pacific Northwest, but will travel to the Midwest as well for some road games.

Nishida's players are all ages 17 or older. According the press releases, they all have five years or more playing experience and want to be coaches in the future.

The roster includes Mikiya Fukuda, Masaharu Kataoka, Satoshi Kawai, Kunishige Ito, Kenta Nakashima, Yuto Okumoto, Fumihiko Otsuka, Daisuke Sugiwaki, Daisuke Tamura, Shinji Tomiyama and Tomoyuki Umeda.

Tomiyama is also listed as the assistant coach.

In the paint: IBL news and notes are posted online at www.iblhoopsonline.com/ The IBL will feature 16 teams this season, four divisions of four teams apiece. The Tornadoes' division (East) includes the Holland Blast, the Grand Rapids Flight and the Kankakee Soldiers. . . . The China-Shanxi Zhongyu play in the South Division.



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