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Sunday, Sep. 18, 2011

Big Bulls beaten in franchise's first game

Staff writer

The Iwate Big Bulls dropped their first-ever game on Saturday afternoon, falling 72-61 to the visiting Niigata Albirex BB as the bj-league teams began the preseason portion of their 2011-12 schedule.

Iwate coach Vlasios Vlaikidis spoke to The Japan Times after the game. He didn't have the game statistics handy, but his impressions of the game were clear in his mind.

"Defense was good, not bad," he said by phone from Morioka, commending his players' effort. "The offense was very bad. But this is normal because this was the first official game. We didn't have any games before."

The Greek coach was pleased with the attendance, estimated at 3,00 spectators, and the enthusiastic buildup to the game in Tohoku.

"The gym was full," he said, adding he's excited by that fact.

"I would like to thank the people that came to see us," the coach said without hesitation. "But we are not ready yet. We need time."

In other words, building a successful basketball team from scratch can't be accomplished over night. The Big Bulls will have a long season ahead of them to begin to plant the seeds for future success.

In the meantime, Vlaikidis is directing his charges to absorb the finer points of his system. The team's foreign players — forwards Matthew Smith, Shawn Malloy and Thomas Kennedy and guard/forward Shin Jae Rok — have been in Iwate Prefecture for only 10-12 days, so this is only the beginning of their adjustment period.

Pinpointing an area he will challenge his players to improve, Vlaikidis cited rebounding. He mentioned Albirex center Chris Holm as an example of an effective rebounder, and wants his players to emulate Holm's effort when Iwate returns to the court on Monday against the host Akita Northern Happinets.

Vlaikidis sees the big picture and knows there's no reason to dwell on a preseason loss.

"We will be ready for the first game after three weeks. We will be a totally different team," he said.

"Without work we cannot do anything," he added bluntly.

When his phone interview was done at around 8 p.m. on Saturday, Vlaikidis had game film to analyze and then had to prepare for Sunday's 10 a.m. practice.

A coach's work is never complete.

Broncos top Jets

Also Saturday, the Saitama Broncos defeated the visiting Chiba Jets 80-61.

Chiba coach Eric Gardow commented on his expansion team's play after the game, the Jets' second exhibition contest.

"Even after an ugly preseason game, we are still 0-0," he told The Japan Times.

Gardow added: "My guys are just too nice when they take the court. They battle and work hard in practice but it has yet to carry over in the games. I hope we can figure it out before the opener."

In Gardow's opinion, Saitama's hustle and energy were key factors in the game. Yuki Kitamuki's 18-point effort and Daiki Terashita's 12 points for Saitama gave the Broncos a big lift.

"That is the kind of production I am looking for from my Japanese players," Gardow said of Kitamuki and Terashita.

Saitama rookie forward John Flowers made his presence felt inside, hauling in 16 rebounds, including eight off the offensive glass.

For Chiba, Maurice Hargrow scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while center Gaston Moliva had 14 points and six rebounds in his Chiba debut despite playing with an ankle sprain sustained in the first quarter.

"He continued to play but at about 60 percent on a bad ankle and a shoe that was completely torn open," Gardow said of Moliva.

The Jets are learning to deal with adversity in the early going. Guard Kensuke Tanaka has struggled while wearing a mask to protect a broken nose (injured in the Jets' Sept. 3 preseason opener). Forward Takaki Ishida, meanwhile, was limited due to a recent knee injury in practice.

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