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Goya eager to make positive impact for Evessa

by Ed Odeven

Point guard Takanori Goya was the No. 1 pick in the bj-league’s 2006 draft. After two losing seasons, he was traded to the Osaka Evessa.

On Saturday, Goya, a native of Okinawa, begins his quest to help the Evessa win a fourth consecutive championship. Osaka opens the 2008-09 season with a pair of road games against the expansion Shiga Lakestars in Otsu.

In a recent interview with The Japan Times, Goya said he’s confident his new team can win another title.

Goya also praised the way two-time league MVP Lynn Washington has set the tone — a winning attitude — for the Kansai franchise.

“Lynn is a great leader,” said Goya, a two-time All-Star. “He always does his job, and he knows what to do. These (characteristics) make him a great leader.”

Reflecting on his own role on the team and the way he has played in the preseason, Goya decided that it’s too early to give an accurate assessment.

“I cannot rate it,” he said. “The reason is that I did not play a lot during preseason games. I think that I need to know or understand what Coach Ten (Kensaku Tennichi) is expecting.”

Looking ahead to this season, Goya is excited about the changes the league has made, including adopting a 52-game schedule.

“I think it good thing, because I can play more and be able to grow more,” he said.

Goya led the Grouses in assists last season, dishing out 143. He also proved to be a durable player, starting 42 of 44 games and averaging 9.9 points per game.

In the past two seasons, Goya, 25, was always in the spotlight. Sometimes, he handled it well. At other times, the pressure had a negative effect on his game.

“‘Yes, I felt pressure,” he admitted, “because I was the No. 1 pick and felt I had to do a better performance.

Barring a miracle turnaround, Toyama, which went 7-37 in 2007-08, is not expected to compete for a championship this season. The Evessa, on the other hand, could collect their fourth title next spring. To do so, the Okinawa native will be counted on to provide stellar contributions as the backup point guard to Nile Murry and as a capable perimeter scorer.

Goya embraces the challenge.

“After two years in the bj-league, I think I understand what a point guard is . . . such as his role,” he said before revealing his biggest strength is his ability to penetrate in the lane.

The Grouses won only 20 total games in their first two seasons, but Goya left Toyama with plenty of positive memories from his time spent wearing the team’s uniform.

He said his No. 1 highlight to date has been “playing with a lot of American players.”

Goya also said both Grouses coach Masato Fukushima and Tennichi have consistently stressed the same fundamental lessons to him as he looks for ways to become a better basketball player.

“The similar point is that both head coaches want point guards to understand what the team’s plan is and organize its offensive play,” Goya said.

Sometimes a change of scenery can help a player grow and become more productive in games. For Goya, this scenario may prove to be true, too.