Can you offer a few comments on the record that can be used to highlight what is good and bad and what are the real challenges both leagues face now? And how has the bj-league's growth built a pathway for youth and development of the game as well?
He said, "JBL: If you want to see the best Japanese players, or get an idea of who might be on the Japan National Team, you have to watch the JBL. Only 8 teams, with Hokkaido on the verge of collapse, so the number of teams for 2011-12 is in doubt. About 13 teams in the JBL have folded and gone out of business over the last 15 years, with three others leaving to join the bj-league. Even the best Japanese players are only at about the level of NAIA or NCAA Div. II basketball in the US. Except for Tochigi and Hokkaido, quite often the majority of fans are employees of the sponsoring companies, Hitachi, Panasonic, Toyota, Toshiba, etc.
"(In the) bj-league: Up to five imports per team, so if you want to watch dunks, alley-oops, and athletic play, this is the league to watch. Three former NBA players and one former NBA head coach, so the reputation of this league among players and agents has improved rapidly. The bj-league gets much more respect from abroad than it does from within Japan. With teams located in areas like Okinawa (Ryukyu Golden Kings), Niigata, Sendai, and Akita it has developed strong fan bases in areas that were previously neglected. Although many of the Japanese players have improved dramatically, the bj-league still gets second class treatment without the best Japanese players. It also hurts the leagues image to have teams like Oita and Takamatsu struggle along. If teams can't operate with a minimum budget for players and staff, and if they can't put a minimum number of fans in the stands for every game, they need to be dropped from the league. The league needs to do more to strengthen the good teams and weed out the under-performers."
Do you think the national team needs greater commitments to getting players overseas for colleges and hoop camps, too?
"To be honest, playing college basketball in Japan is a waste of four years. Players rarely improve, and it is not until after they join the JBL (or bj-league) that they start to reach their potential. If the JBA really wanted to improve Japanese basketball they would make a concerted effort to see that as many of the top young players as possible in junior high school were learning English and preparing to go to high school and college in the US. Japanese teams at all levels (mini basketball, jr. high, high school, college) have too many players on the team. Quite often 20-30 or more. Teams don't play that many games, and if 5 players are playing, that leaves 25 sitting and watching. Contrast to high school teams in the US for example, where one high school may have four teams (freshman, sophomore, JV, Varsity, with 12-15 players per team) or to club teams in Europe which are often grouped by ages, 13-14, 15-16, etc.
"Another good change would be to limit each college team to 12-15 players, so that more player would have a chance to play, and more universities would have a chance to get some good players."
I know you've spoken about this before, but in terms of leadership at the JBA, how is this organization hindering the growth of the sport? How much clout does the old-boys network have in keeping the status quo going and going and ....?
"Thirteen teams have folded over the last 15 years. Three others have left the JBL. The JBA has a system that doesn't work. But no one knows what to do about it. It seems like every new proposal is just the same old thing with a different name. Pre-Super League, Super League, The New League, JBL, The Top League.....
"But it's also very disappointing that the bj-league hasn't been aggressive in sending out some counter-proposals. I would love to see some ideas about where to put teams, how to divide up the Japanese players, realistic talk about salaries and expenditures (which no one in the JBL dares to do because it means dramatically slashing salaries and budgets), setting up conferences, schedules, etc., which companies would be team sponsors, which might be league sponsors, etc., etc."