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Washington, Ryukyu forwards recognized for excellence in March

by Ed Odeven

Two-time league MVP Lynn Washington knows how to inspire his Osaka Evessa teammates.

He does it by playing basketball the way he did in March, averaging 27.5 points in the team’s nine bj-league games in the month.

Washington is The Japan Times’ Offensive Player of the Month for March. Osaka went 6-3 in those contests, not a great record or a lousy one, as Kensaku Tennichi’s club maintained its place as the Western Conference’s third-place team. At the same time, Washington, a former Indiana University standout, reminded his teammates that he is the go-to player on the squad, a guy who they’ll need to rely on to lead the team in the postseason if it hopes to earn a fourth straight title.

Washington scored 32 or more points in four of those games. In addition to his potent offensive production, Washington had seven double-doubles and a triple-double in the month, a 14-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist effort on March 7. On two other occasions, he had nine rebounds.

He is the league’s third-leading scorer (25.2 ppg) and forms a solid frontcourt rotation with veterans Kazuya Hatano and Ryan Blackwell, among others.

Strong consideration also went to Sendai 89ers forward Bobby St. Preux, who helped his club win eight of nine March contests. St. Preux ended the month with an 11-point outing, but, in sequence, these were his scoring totals in the team’s other games, starting on March 1: 20, 26, 22, 19, 20, 29, 30 and 20.

At month’s end, the 89ers had five players with 100 or more assists, a sign of the team’s unselfish play under coach Honoo Hamaguchi. Another player of the month candidate, 89ers guard Kenichi Takahashi, is the team’s top passer with 160 assists, including 44 in March, to his credit.

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Ryukyu Golden Kings teammates Anthony McHenry and Jeff Newton, cornerstones of the team’s success this season, are The Japan Times’ Co-Defensive Players of the Month.

McHenry, a forward who played college ball at Georgia Tech, was a persistent pest on defense as the Golden Kings won six of nine March games and entered April with a league-best 33-11 record. He pulled down 92 rebounds (73 defensive boards), made 15 steals and blocked 14 shots in March. He is No. 10 in the league in blocked shots (1.7 per game).

Newton, a key player on the Evessa’s three championship teams who joined Ryukyu in the offseason, had a superb month on defense as well. A dynamic forward, Newton had 90 defensive rebounds (113 total) to go along with 25 blocks and 12 steals. He is the league’s third-leading rebounder (12.9 per game).

Together, McHenry and Newton create opportunities for point guard Naoto Takushi, one of the league’s top theft artists, to force opponents to turn the ball over or alter their offensive game plans. With 88 steals entering this weekend, Takushi is No. 6 in the league in steals (2.0 per game).