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Fate of Five Arrows still unclear as season looms

by Ed Odeven

The bj-league’s fifth season begins on Oct. 3 — with or without the Takamatsu Five Arrows.

The Shikoku team’s fate is still unknown as of press time on Friday afternoon.

Previously, Sept. 18 was cited as the deadline for the team to come up with the cash it needed to play this season or make plans to suspended operations for the 2009-10 season and try to re-enter the league for the 2010-11 campaign.

If the team does suspend operations, the bj-league would need to quickly organize a dispersal draft for Takamatsu’s players.

Sources have confirmed team officials met with bj-league representatives on Wednesday to discuss the Five Arrows’ situation.

When reached by phone on Friday, Takamatsu spokesman Masashi Takeda said it was unclear what has, if anything at all, been decided yet. But it appears the Five Arrows are working vigorously to make ends meet.

Previously, new coach John Neumann’s club has said it needed ¥80 million in additional sponsorship to field a team this season after the team lost its main sponsor, Anabuki Construction Inc.

Overall, Takamatsu estimated it will require ¥190 million in operating expenses for the coming season. In addition, the city of Takamatsu reportedly is willing to step in and provide some financial assistance to the team.

Apache update: Two days after ex-Five Arrows coach Motofumi Aoki was named the Tokyo Apache’s new floor boss to replace Joe Bryant, a picture is starting to emerge about Tokyo’s 2009-10 roster.

One source said Friday that big men Nick Davis and Julius Ashby, who were instrumental in Tokyo’s trip to the bj-league championship game last season, are currently in Tokyo practicing and making preparations for the coming season. Both standouts could join a lineup that may also include former Takamatsu point guard Rasheed Sparks, a quality floor leader and defender who is expected to sign a contract in the coming days.

Like Sparks, Ashby previously played under Aoki in Takamatsu.

Business in Beppu: Texas businessman Vince Rawl will be one of the shareholders of the newly formed Oita Heat Co., HeatDevils team president Masaaki Mimaki said on Friday.

An official announcement has not been made yet, but Rawl, a former team owner, is expected to be involved in club operations. In addition, he will be named a team director.

Earlier this week, a meeting of shareholders was held in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, a team spokesman said. Rawl was expected to attend the meeting, but he did not show up.

Nevertheless, Mimaki said, Rawl will have a big stake in the team’s operations.

The HeatDevils are coming off a league-worst 8-44 season.

Around the league: The Niigata Albirex BB re-signed power forward Calvin Chitwood, center/forward Paul Butorac and small forward/power forward Antonio Burks, the team has announced. All three played for the team in the 2008-09 season, when the Albirex went 24-28 and reached the playoffs.

Of the three returnees, Burks was the top scorer with 13.0 points per game last season, while Butorac averaged 10.1 ppg. and Calvin Chitwood contributed 8.0 ppg.

In addition, Niigata added swingman Tyrone Levett, who has suited up for teams in Sweden, Portugal and Austria, as well as for the Vermont Frost Heaves after a collegiate career at Alabama State.

Rumor mill: With their season opener set for Oct. 3 against the expansion Kyoto Hannaryz, the Shiga Lakestars, who made their bj-league debut last October, are in the market to add another Japanese player, possibly through a trade with Tokyo.

Reina Itakura, Shiga’s selection (No. 4 overall) in May’s draft, has reportedly not signed a contract with the team as of press time on Friday.