Many felt surprised when Juan Gómez de Liaño signed with B.League Division 2 team Earth Friends Tokyo Z.
Comments ranged from the 6-foot-1 combo guard being a B1 level talent to questions why he was settling.
For starters, competition in B2 is as intense as B1. The difference is that the B.League requires B1 teams to have a large home base that could fit thousands of people.
Take for example, San-En’s home court Toyohashi City General Gymnasium, which has a max capacity of 7,000 people. Tokyo’s Ota City General Gymnasium, on the other hand, can only have a maximum of 4,012 people in attendance.
Besides the same competition intensity, Gómez de Liaño decided to sign with Earth Friends since he could play under the mentorship of Hugo López.
“A big factor in this decision was the relationship I have developed with Coach Hugo. He had a lot of trust in me and he said that I’m going to fit well in his system,” the former UP Fighting Maroon told Tiebreaker Times about López.
“He is a well-known and highly respected coach not just in Europe, but worldwide. I’m just really excited to play under Coach Hugo.”
Now, who is Coach López?
The young mentor started his coaching career back in 2001 as an assistant coach to NCAA D3 school Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. He then moved to European squads CD Villa de Los Barrios, Lagun Aro Gipuzkoa, and, eventually, Real Madrid.
In 2015, he became the head coach of Malabo Kings and Moontakit-Fuenlabrada. But it was his move to NBL-Canada team Halifax that made him.
In Canada, he was named the league’s Coach of the Year in 2016.
Since then, he has stayed with Spanish team CB Ciudad de Valladolid.
In 2019, meanwhile, he became the head coach of Sweden’s national team.
After a dismal 13-46 campaign last season in the B.League, Tokyo replaced Shunsuke Todo as its head coach for López.
Besides López and Gómez de Liaño, Tokyo also tapped new imports in hulking 6-foot-8 Haitian Marc-Eddy Norelia and 6-foot-8 NC State standout Pat Andree.
If Juan GDL impresses in his maiden season, López is planning to bring the 21-year-old to somewhere bigger. Europe maybe?