Basketball: B-League puts on show as Japanese pro basketball is reborn

Tokyo Alvark held off a late Ryukyu Golden Kings charge on Thursday to become the first team to win a game in the B-League, Japan’s shiny new, and hopefully improved, basketball competition.

The game ended 80-75 in Tokyo’s favor, but the night was clearly more about the long-term goal of positioning basketball in the hugely competitive Japanese sports market, and the night at the full-to-capacity Yoyogi National Gymnasium looked to be a success.

Professional is not a word that has been used to describe basketball in Japan for some time as mismanagement and missteps cost the game its international standing, but on this night professionalism was on show everywhere.

The futuristic video screen playing surface was impressive, and the on-court product was exciting, despite the teams clearly having some kinks to work out.

Unlike many of the other foreigners on court, Ryukyu’s Anthony McHenry has played in Japan for a relatively long time, and he said this was an all-new experience.

“This is the first time, it was a great experience and I am happy to be a part of it,” said the 2012-13 BJ League MVP.

“It was definitely more geared towards entertainment, I was entertained myself…Today was great, I have not seen anything like it.”

“I’m relieved we have been able to open the league,” said Masaaki Okawa, the league chairman.

“The organizers of the league have barely slept the past week, you could tell both teams were up for it. The game was good and the entertainment was good.”

The crowd, bedecked in its free B-League shirts, saw the local team hold off a 18-6 fourth quarter burst from the Okinawans that pulled the game to within three points with less than two minutes to play but Tokyo held on for the five-point win.

The big-spending Toyota-backed Tokyo team’s first outing since winning the final NBL title saw a balanced attack, with Troy Gillenwater leading the way in his first game in Japan.

The American big-man who had a three-year collegiate career at New Mexico State finished with 14 points on 4-for-6 from the floor and six rebounds.

Japan’s stalwart national team center, Joji Takeuchi, was his usual effective self, scoring nine points and adding a game-high 13 boards.

For the Golden Kings Shuhei Kitagawa scored 16 while Mo Charlo finished with an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double.

McHenry, who scored nine points, added eight boards, four assists, two steals and two blocks, said that his team were battling unfamiliarity both with his teammates and their opponents — a challenge that will continue for some time.

“I have not seen anyone (of the other teams). I have played against these guys (Tokyo) before in the preseason and they’ve always been a good franchise, but everybody else, no idea.”


Article source: