Shiga Lakestars

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By Philbert Ono (Last updated: Oct. 16, 2010)

Lakestars
Tip-off at Lakestars' first home game on Oct. 10, 2009.
Lakestars
GO! GO! LAKESTARS!!
Lakestars
Magnee, Shiga Lakestars Official Mascot
Based in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Japan, the Shiga Lakestars is a pro basketball team in Japan's bj-league. Established in 2008, it is Shiga's one and only professional sports team that made its debut during the 2008-2009 season. The team's name was selected from among over 600 proposals received from the public in the summer of 2007. (My proposal was Shiga Lakers.) Most people favored using "Shiga' instead of "Omi" which is Shiga's former name during the feudal era. In Japanese, the name is written as 滋賀レイクスターズ. The team's official slogan is, "Shoot for the stars." The team has also adopted the nickname of "Lakes."

The team's first head coach was Robert Pierce who coached during the team's first two seasons. There have been numerous changes in the roster each season, especially among the foreign players who barely seem to be able to stay on for longer than one season. Even Head Coach Pierce was not retained for the team's third season even though he had improved the team's record significantly in his second and final season with the Lakestars when they made it to the playoffs. It's getting harder to develop a long-term affection toward the team which changes so much and so often. By the time you become able to recognize and remember the new players' faces, the season is over.

Pierce found a new coaching position with the Akita Happinets for their debut season in 2010-2011. Bobby Nash from Hawaii, popular in Shiga, was also released from the team in mid-season in 2010. He now plays for the Saitama Broncos coached by his dad Bob Nash, former head basketball coach at the University of Hawaii. So for 2010-2011, the most interesting Lakestars games will be when they play against the Happinets (Dec. 18-19, 2010) and Broncos (Jan. 29-30, 2011) both in Shiga.

Among the Japanese Lakestars players, Fujiwara Takamichi continues to be the team captain since the team's first season. A few players hail from Shiga, such as Okada Yu and Ogawa Shinya. The most popular player is Joho Masashi who plays his second season with the Lakestars in 2010-11. The head coach is Ishibashi Takatoshi who was the assistant coach last season in 2009-10. Before that, he was the head coach of the Toyama Grouses which came in last place.

Established in 2005, the bj-league is one of two pro basketball leagues in Japan. It has two conferences, Western and Eastern. The Lakestars are in the Western Conference along with Osaka, Takamatsu, Fukuoka, Oita, Shimane, Miyazaki, and Okinawa. The top four winning teams in each conference will qualify to enter the playoffs starting in May. The championship game between the Eastern and Western Conference champions will be played at Ariake Coliseum, Tokyo. Each bj-league team has a mix of Japanese and foreign players (many of them American). The league and teams are supported by numerous corporate sponsors. Their names are emblazoned everywhere: Players' uniforms, the basketball court, and courtside.

Japan's other pro basketball league is the Japan Basketball League (JBL) which was established earlier. It provides members for Japan's national team. JBL teams are mainly sponsored by a single company (similar to Japanese baseball teams). However, quite a few JBL teams have folded or moved over to the bj-league since many companies could no longer afford to have a pro basketball team.

The bj-league continues to expand as more expansion teams join in. However, pro basketball in Japan is still not a mainstream spectator sport, and receives very little mainstream media coverage. Right now, it's pretty much a niche spectator sport (like rowing). Read more about the bj-league here.

Since the Lakestars does not have any English Web site, I created this page for those of you who cannot read Japanese.

Contents

How to Buy Tickets

There are several ways to buy a ticket to Shiga Lakestars games. If you can't read Japanese, the easiest way is to buy a ticket at the door at the venue on the day of the game. However, buying a ticket at the door will cost 500 yen more than a ticket bought in advance. If you can read Japanese or have a friend who can read Japanese and buy an advance ticket for you, you can buy a ticket online with a credit card at the Shiga Lakestars Web site or drop in at the convenience store like Lawson and Family Mart and buy a ticket at their ticket machine. Details below.

Ticket prices in Shiga for adults range from 1,800 yen to 6,000 yen. Ticket prices for children up to junior high school are cheaper in the non-reserved sections. Admission free for infants who can sit on your lap. There are also a limited number of season tickets good for 22 of the 26 home games in Shiga (not good for games held in Hikone and Maibara). Prices range from 46,000 yen (1st floor non-reserved section) to 105,000 yen (courtside seats). The season ticket is 16% to 20% cheaper than if you buy the tickets for each game individually. They also sell a set of five tickets (kaisuken) with prices ranging from 8,000 yen for 2nd floor non-reserved seats to 15,000 yen for the 1st floor reserved section. This way you save up to 1,500 yen. For more info, see here or call 0120-976-509 toll-free within Japan.

There are several types of seating, and they differ slightly depending on the venue. Basically, the closer seats are reserved and more expensive, and the cheapest seats are for the non-reserved section (called jiyuseki) on the 2nd floor. The 6,000 yen tickets (called SV) are for seats right along courtside. There is also a section for fans of the visiting away team and for wheelchairs. For seating diagrams of each venue, see here (in Japanese only).

How to buy tickets:

  • If you can't read Japanese, the easiest way to buy a ticket is at the door of the gym or arena on the day of the game. Be prepared to pay 500 yen more than an advance ticket.
  • If you can read Japanese, you can buy the ticket at your nearest convenience store (Family Mart, Lawson, Seven-Eleven, Circle K) and pia ticket counters. You will need the L code or P code of the game you want to watch. The codes are here.
  • You can reserve a ticket by calling this toll-free number within Japan (Tue. to Fri., 10 am to 6 pm): 0120-976-509
  • You can buy a ticket online with a credit card at the Shiga Lakestars Web site. Click here.
  • If you want to buy a ticket for a Kyoto Hannaryz game in Kyoto (like when they play against the Lakestars), see the info here (in Japanese).

More info about buying tickets here (in Japanese).

Watching Shiga Lakestars Home Games

Although the Lakestars are based in Otsu (Shiga's capital), home games are also played outside Otsu in other cities in Shiga. They include Higashi-Omi, Yasu, Moriyama, Hikone, and Maibara. It makes it convenient for those who live near those venues. In Yasu, Moriyama, and other venues where the gym is far from the train station, there are special shuttle buses (operated by Omi Bus) that run within the hour before tip-off from the train station. And after the game, a shuttle bus usually runs twice back to the train station. For example, if the game ends at 7 pm, the shuttle bus will usually leave at 7:15 pm and 7:45 pm. (A game is usually about 2 hours long.) The gym in Otsu and Maibara are within walking distance from the nearest train station. See my Google Map of all the Lakestars home game venues here.

The Lakestars also play in Kyoto and Osaka when they face the Hannaryz or Evessa on their home turf. Kyoto and Osaka are easy day trips from Shiga.

On certain days, the local Biwako Broadcasting Company (BBC) will broadcast the home game live on TV. If you're in Shiga, you can watch it. See the game schedule here to see which games will be televised.

Gates usually open 2 hours before tip-off for pre-game activities and entertainment. Sometimes kids from a local basketball league will play. And sometimes they have games for spectators who can win small prizes. Entertainment may include a singer or musician and the cheerleaders. For home games in Shiga, the Lakestars wear a lake-blue uniform. For away games, they wear a white uniform.

It is also possible to view a live scoreboard of games currently in progress at http://www.basketballjapantv.com/ . (Under the TV window, click on the yellow button for the respective game.) Sometimes games are broadcast live on local TV stations in Shiga such as NHK Otsu and BBC (Biwako Broadcasting Company). To see the final scores, see the Asia-basket.com here.

When seeing a home game in Shiga note the following:

  • Bringing outside food and drinks into the venue is not allowed anymore. (They may search your bags.) They want you to buy food and drink inside the venue instead. So throw away your PET bottle drinks before entering.
  • Still photography is allowed, but not video.
  • Using flash is not allowed.

Shiga Lakestars Roster

There are usually four foreign players on the team and the rest are Japanese. For the current Shiga Lakestars roster, see Shiga Lakestars 2010-2011 roster at Asia-Basket.

Shiga Lakestars Game Schedule

During the regular season from Oct. to May, the Lakestars will play a total of 52 games during the weekends. About half of them will be in Shiga. See the current Lakestars game schedule here (in Japanese).

Shiga Lakestars Cheerleaders

Lakestars
Lakestars cheerleaders
There are ten cheerleaders hailing from Shiga, Kyoto, and other prefectures. During home games, they perform during most timeouts and at halftime. They don't appear at away games. They have two main uniforms: A blue and white halter top and hot pants, and black top and black pants. Their director is Kawanaka Naoko. They also conduct cheering workshops for kids at a few fitness clubs in Shiga for 6300 yen/month.

Magnee, Shiga Lakestars Official Mascot #88

A Lake Biwa Catfish (with hands and feet). It is a species found only in Lake Biwa, sometimes believed to predict earthquakes. He began to live on land on Aug. 8, 2008. He (or it) sometimes dances with the cheerleaders and goes into the stands to shake hands with kids. It does not talk or make any sound, but has earthquake-size energy. His name comes from the word "magnitude."

Photos

Lakestars
Lakestars bus. When not in use by the team, this bus is available for hire for chartered bus transportation. It has 29 roomy seats.
Each time I see a Lakestars game, I post photos on my Web site as listed below. I would also post video clips, but shooting videos at bj-league games is not allowed. Two of my Lakestars photos were also published in an online Japan Times article about Joho by Ed Odeven on March 21, 2010.

2009-2010 Season

2008-2009 Season

All photos by Philbert Ono.

2009-2010 Shiga Lakestars Roster

This was the roster for last season 2009-2010. Besides playing basketball, the team seeks to help the local community by holding basketball workshops at local schools and participating in local events in Shiga. Note that the Lakestars has released Mike Hall (#23) in Dec. 2009 due to "his health not being 100%." His apparent replacement was Ray Schafer who rejoined the team in Jan. 2010. Ray was a Lakestar during the last season.

Another personnel change occurred in early March 2010 when popular Bobby Nash was released from the team. His release was soon followed by the signing of Mikey Marshall in early March. His debut game was on March 6 against the Tokyo Apache in Yokohama.

ISHIBASHI Haruyuki #12 (石橋 晴行)

Lakestars
Lakestars
ISHIBASHI Haruyuki #12 FUJIWARA Takamichi #11
Lakestars
Lakestars
HORIKAWA Ryuichi #8 Chris Schlatter #4
Lakestars
Lakestars
SATO Hirotaka #9 JOHO Masashi #31
Lakestars
Lakestars
OGAWA Shinya #5 KOJIMA Yuta #03
Lakestars
Lakestars
Gary Hamilton #2 in the away uniform Mikey Marshall #1
Lakestars
Lakestars
Luke Zellar #40 Ray Schafer #45
Lakestars
Lakestars
Head Coach Robert Pierce and Assistant Coach Ishibashi Takatoshi Magnee #88, official mascot

  • Position: Point Guard
  • Born (Year, Month, Day): 1973.12.3
  • Height and Weight: 173 cm, 75 kg
  • Hometown: Osaka
  • Education: Osaka Sangyo Daigaku
  • Former (bj-league) Team: Osaka Evessa
  • Blog: http://lakesplayer.shiga-saku.net/c10294.html

This is his second season with the Lakestars. Also serves as a playing assistant coach. Nickname "Bashi."

FUJIWARA Takamichi #11 (藤原 隆充)

  • Position: Point Guard
  • Born: 1978.7.16
  • Height and Weight: 182 cm, 82 kg
  • Hometown: Fukuoka
  • Education: Kyushu Sangyo Daigaku
  • Former Team: Niigata Albirex BB
  • Blog: http://wara11.shiga-saku.net/

Back for his second season with the Lakestars. Team captain again for 2009-10. Nickname "Wara." Good at cooking curry, so you might see "Wara Curry Rice" being sold at home games like last season. He sports a new hairstyle (ponytail gone) for 2009-10.

HORIKAWA Ryuichi #8 (堀川 竜一)

Chris Schlatter #4

Has played in Portugal and Germany.

SATO Hirotaka #9 (佐藤 浩貴)

This is his second season with the Lakestars.

JOHO Masashi #31 (城宝 匡史)

  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • Born: 1982.4.24
  • Height and Weight: 183cm, 83kg
  • Hometown: Hokkaido
  • Education: Osaka Shogyo Univ.
  • Former Team: Osaka Evessa, Tokyo Apache
  • Blog: http://joho.shiga-saku.net/

A distinctive fixture with the Tokyo Apache is now a Lakestar. Joho was acquired in a last-minute trade with Tokyo Apache. He is proving to be a valuable asset to the team and brings playoff and championship experience to Shiga. He is really invigorating the team and a crowd favorite often calling, "JOHO! JOHO!" His nickname is "Jo."

OGAWA Shinya #5 (小川 伸也)

Local boy back for his second season with the Lakestars.

KOJIMA Yuta #03 (小島 佑太)

This is his second season with the Lakestars. Former player for Hitachi Sun Rockers.

Gary Hamilton #2

  • Position: Power Forward and co-captain from early March 2010.
  • Born: 1984.8.7
  • Height and Weight: 208 cm, 115 kg
  • Hometown: California, USA
  • Education: Miami Univ.
  • Former Team:
  • Blog: http://lakesplayer.shiga-saku.net/c18050.html

Played in Germany.

Mikey Marshall #1

Highly regarded and experienced player in Japan. Joined the Lakestars in early March 2010.

Luke Zellar #40

  • Position: Center
  • Born: 1987.4.7
  • Height and Weight: 211 cm, 111 kg
  • Hometown: Washington, Indiana, USA
  • Education: University of Notre Dame
  • Former Team: Chicago Bulls (2009 NBA Summer league team)
  • Blog: http://lakesplayer.shiga-saku.net/c18052.html

Fresh out of college, this is his first year as a pro.

Ray Schafer #44

Ray was a member of the Lakestars during its first season. He returned during the team's second season in Jan. 2010.

Robert Pierce, Head Coach

Shiga Lakestars' first head coach is back for the second season. Former head coach of Hitachi Sunrockers 2000-01, assistant coach for the Japan national team in 2002, Asia scout for Cleveland Cavaliers, and head coach for a team in China. Read a Japan Times interview with Pierce here.

ISHIBASHI Takatoshi, Assistant Coach (石橋 貴俊)

Former player and head coach of the Toyama Grouses until last season. Big and tall man, appropriately nicknamed "Big Bashi." This is his first season as assistant coach for the Lakestars.

Shiga Lakestars Boosters (Club Lakes)

Lakestars
Boosters
Called Club Lakes, the Lakestars booster club is the team's official fan club. They go to games and sit in the booster section and make a lot of noise cheering the Lakestars or booing the opposing team during free throws. Membership fees are 3,000 yen per season for adults, and 1,000 yen for junior memberships (children up to junior high school).

Membership benefits include:

  • Membership card that can accumulate points. Points accumulate when you buy Lakestars goods, etc. When you obtain enough points, you can get special seating at games or meetings with team members.
  • Club Lakes magazine subscription
  • "GO! LAKESTARS" sticker
  • Photograph of the team
  • Lakestars lapel pin
  • Discounted tickets bought at the door
  • Discounts on Lakestars clothing (not applicable to junior members)
  • Invitations to special Lakestars events such as Booster Appreciation parties

You can join by going to a home game in Shiga and sign up and pay the membership fee at the Club Lakes booth inside the venue. Or sign up online at the Lakestars booster Web site if you can read Japanese.

Links

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