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Five Arrows putting on aerial show

by Kaz Nagatsuka

If occupying the air leads to domination of a game, the Takamatsu Five Arrows have a better advantage, because they excel at making the easiest shots — dunks — more than every other bj-league team.

The Shikoku club leads the league in the number of dunks with 153 (through March 9), 63 more than the Ryukyu Golden Kings, who are second with 90.

The Five Arrows’ aerial show is mainly orchestrated by their three fan-loving Americans — forward Reggie Warren, center George Leach and guard Rasheed Sparks — and with that super-athletic trio on the floor, their game becomes as spectacular as it can be.

Individually, Warren is No. 1 in dunks with 2.0 per game (69 in total), followed by Leach’s 1.6 (52 in total), in 34 contests this season. Sparks has 18 dunks.

“Since I’ve been playing, in most of the leagues I’ve played in, I’ve usually been at the top of dunks,” said the 206-cm Warren, who is averaging 22.3 points and 12.2 rebounds this season. “It just comes to me, and if I’m close enough to the rim, I try to make sure I dunk.”

And he smilingly gave a simple reason why he tries to slam the ball through the hoop.

“Because sometimes layups don’t go in. That’s the best way (to score),” added Warren.

For Leach, the reason is even simpler, and he’s quite nonchalant about the play.

“I’m tall, I’ve got to dunk,” the 210-cm Leach said with a laugh. “As long as we’re winning, I’m cool.”

Of course everybody — everybody who can slam — has his own memorable dunking moment. So does Leach.

“It was when I was in college. It was against Wisconsin,” said the 26-year-old Leach, who played at Indiana University. “There were two guards and I dunked the ball and got fouled. I didn’t know I made it, so I went back down court, and then my teammates said to me, ‘You made the dunk. Shoot the free-throw.’ So that was my most memorable dunk.”

Warren’s reaction was kind of similar to Leach’s when he did his best slam.

“I was at L.A. for a summer league (game), and I was playing against a couple of NBA players, such as Gilbert Arenas and Bryon Russell,” Warren said. “Then I caught a rebound, and then threw it up to the point guard, and he saw me trailing on the play, and he threw the ball away from the rim, towards me.

“And then I caught it so high and people didn’t realize I was going to catch it. And they said my head was right at the rim, and I dunked. That is my best dunk. I saw that on a tape later and I was like, “Wow, did I do that?’ “

But in terms of impressiveness, nobody on the Five Arrows can awe people better than Sparks. Though he doesn’t dunk as often as Warren and Leach, the 190-cm guard is an astonishing leaper and grabs everybody’s attention with his phenomenal, creative dunks.

“When we get open court, we’re just trying to finish with a dunk or a layup,” Sparks said. “Mostly we try to finish with dunks because it’s the surest shot,” said Sparks, who has won the bj-league dunk contest in the All-Star Game in back-to-back seasons.

“I like windmill,” said Sparks, who estimated his vertical jump is between 40 to 41 inches (101.6 to 104.6 cm).

“I liked Dominique’s (Wilkins) windmill. It was always my favorite dunk.”

So all three have something stuck in his mind about dunking or dunks.

But one thing they were sympathetic about dunking was that the play is still two points just like other plays. Yet, at the same time, it can turn the whole atmosphere to a different direction during a game.

“At certain times in a game, a dunk can change the flow of the game,” Sparks said. “A dunk can hype the team and change the team emotionally. So the time of the dunk can be important at certain times of the game.”

Warren echoed Sparks’ sentiment, saying dunks are different from layups and jumpers in terms of their impact on the game and to himself as a player.

“You have tough jump shots and you can feel almost the same (as making dunks),” he said. “But nothing’s like a good dunk.”

Aisin earns sweep

The Aisin Sea Horses completed a two-game sweep over the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins with a 70-60 win in Tokyo on Sunday and advancecd to the JBL Finals.

They will face reigning champion Toyota Motors Alvark, who also swept the OSG Phoenix with a 95-77 victory on the same day, in the Finals.