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Friday, July 20, 2012

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Longtime Sendai guard Takahashi moving to Iwate


Staff writer

As they prepare for their second season, the Iwate Big Bulls recognize the need to add experienced bj-league players.

News photo
On the move: Guard Kenichi Takahashi, seen with the Sendai 89ers last season, has joined the Iwate Big Bulls. DOMINIKA FITZGERALD

Shooting guard Kenichi Takahashi, a Sendai 89ers mainstay since 2006, will suit up for the Big Bulls next season, providing new coach Dai Oketani with a proven asset.

Takahashi agreed to a one-year free agent contract with Iwate. The announcement was made on Tuesday.

Takahashi struggled to find his scoring touch in 2011-12 after beginning the season on the sideline due to a back injury.

He appeared in 44 games and scored 3.3 points, averaging 10.5 minutes per contest while shooting 27.4 percent from 3-point range, numbers far below his production in recent seasons. From 2006-10, he averaged 8.6 ppg and was a shot 35.3 percent on 3-pointers for the 89ers.

Last season, forward Takuya Komoda, who turned 25 last week, emerged as a solid scoring option on the perimeter, and finding playing time for Komoda became a bigger priority in bench boss Bob Pierce's first season at the helm.

Takahashi, an Akita Prefecture native, will remain in Tohoku, but a change of scenery may be beneficial for him and give the 89ers a chance to retool their lineup, too.

In a statement issued by the Big Bulls, it was noted that Takahashi can "attack from the wing and shoot from the outside." These skills, the release stated, "should help (develop) . . . the Big Bulls offense."

Having played for the 89ers since there were eight teams in the league, Takahashi possesses a strong overall knowledge of the Eastern Conference that the team believes will help it build a foundation to compete for a championship, according to the news release. (There are now 21 teams in the bj-league.)

"I think that it's a great honor to play under a championship-winning coach," Takahashi said, referring to Oketani, who won a pair of titles with the Ryukyu Golden Kings.

Takahashi added that he'll exert himself to the fullest for his new team.

Behind the scenes, Takahashi's departure from the 89ers may have raised a few eyebrows in Sendai. One big-money sponsor had reportedly threatened to cut his ties to the team if Takahashi didn't get more playing time next season, a league insider said.

On the other hand, the recent acquisition of shooting guard Yasuaki Arai from the Broncos made Takahashi expendable.

Summer activities: Las Vegas is a place many coaches, players and team officials visit during the ongoing NBA Summer League to watch games, evaluate talent, job hunt and participate in the always useful task of networking.

Nobody can have too many contacts in this always-changing industry with little job security. Free agent players also participate in various games as they work to impress those who can offer them jobs for the coming season.

Those with bj-league ties in Las Vegas in recent days included referee Atsushi Ueda, Yokohama B-Corsairs coach Reggie Geary, ex-Chiba Jets sideline supervisor Eric Gardow, former Saitama Broncos coach Natalie Nakase and Pierce. (JBL coaches have also been making the rounds.)

Power forward Justin Burrell, playing for the Golden State Warriors in the Summer League after leading Yokohama to the Final Four as an expansion team and earning 2011-12 regular-season MVP accolades, is attracting attention.

"Justin Burrell is impressing many NBA scouts," a bj-league source said. "I spoke with a scout for one NBA playoff team who really likes him, and has him on their team's short list of guys to bring in to camp, in case Golden State chooses not to."

Reunion in Cajun country: Former Kyoto Hannaryz guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf visited his old college stomping grounds in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a few days ago. While at Louisiana State, the longtime pro and No. 3 overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft caught up with his ex-college coach, Dale Brown, and big man Stanley Roberts, who also played in the NBA.

Traveling to Texas with his three sons for a basketball camp, Abdul-Rauf, who now resides in Georgia, reminisced with Brown about LSU's exciting one-point win over Vanderbilt in January 1989. Abdul-Rauf drained a buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper in that contest.

"The day brought back the memories for all of us," Brown said in a story posted on LSUsports.net. "It was a heart-warming, wonderful day. It made me feel real good. It was a fun time. He's now back in our (LSU basketball) family again."

Around the league: Center Julius Ashby's time in Shiga appears to be finished after one season. A league source said the Lakestars don't plan to re-sign him for the upcoming season. Ashby has previously played for the Takamatsu Five Arrows, Tokyo Apache, Niigata Albirex BB. It wouldn't be a surprise if the University of Colorado product reunites with his former Five Arrows and Apache coach, Motofumi Aoki, with the expansion Tokyo Cinq Reves this coming season. ...

The Cinq Reves, meanwhile, signed journeyman guards Chris Sasaki and Yuta Kurihara, who previously played for the Chiba Jets and Takamatsu Five Arrows, respectively. ...

Lead guard Derek Raivio, the Shinshu Brave Warriors' best perimeter scorer last season, will play in the Belgian League next season, a source told The Japan Times.

Closing commentary: Despite rapid expansion and an influx of foreign players and coaches over the years, the bj-league's English-language page on its website remains inadequate for them. And it hasn't been updated with any new detailed content since March 2011.

In addition, the page's team logos and website URLs are not aligned, meaning if you click on one of the team logos at the top of the page, you'll be directed to another team's site. (Repeated messages to the league office about this mixup since before the start of the 2011-12 season have not yielded any results.)

For a league that needs the skills of foreigners to make a big impact, its attention to giving them — and their families and friends — as much information as possible about the league is failing miserably.

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Do you have a story idea about the bj-league? Send an email to edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp



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