Japan's B.League: A rising alternative to the NBL, China and Europe
Australian Boomer Nick Kay may be the biggest Aussie name in Japan's B.League, but he's not the only one there.
For elite Australian basketball players hoping to ply their trade abroad, Europe has historically been the next step down from the NBA. In recent years however, new pathways have started to open up, such as China’s Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) - where Jo Acuil, Thon Maker and Duop Reath are currently based. Another contender recently emerged in nearby Japan, with Aussies listed on active B.League first division rosters - Nick Kay, Brock Motum and Samson Froling.
The B.League consists of three divisions - a first division (B1) which has 24 teams, a second division (B2) with 14 teams, and a third division (B3) with 16 teams. Teams can move up and down divisions as per a system of promotion and relegation, which is reminiscent of European basketball. Each division is further divided into conferences - for instance, the B1 league has East, West and Central conferences.
*Note: this article discusses players from B1 and B2.
Nick Kay - Shimane Susanoo Magic
Kay certainly wasn’t the first Aussie to try his luck in Japan —after all, Angus Brandt had arrived the season prior— but as a key member of the Boomers’ Tokyo Olympic roster, his move was the one that raised eyebrows. Kay left Spanish club Real Betis, and thus a position in one of the world’s premier domestic leagues outside the NBA.
But despite taking the road less travelled, Kay’s game certainly hasn’t taken a backward step. He averaged 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in year one with the Susanoo Magic, while shooting 54.4% from the field and 39.5% from downtown (on a then-career high 3.4 attempts per game). The 6’9 big man is quite mobile for his size, and often puts the ball on the floor for a perimeter drive, but is equally capable of playing with his back to the basket, and pulling up for a jumper, hook shot or layup. He also showed flashes of playmaking, with an average of 3.5 assists in the the 2021-22 season.
In year two (2022-23), the former Perth Wildcat has taken his game to new heights.
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