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Akita inks Burks, Henry

by Ed Odeven

The expansion Akita Northern Happinets have signed their first two import players, the bj-league team announced on Friday.

Versatile forward Antonio Burks, who played the past two seasons for the Niigata Albirex BB, and guard Sek Henry will play for Akita coach Bob Pierce’s club in the 2010-11 season, which begins on Oct. 16.

The 28-year-old Burks, one of the league’s most proficient 3-point shooters, attended Stephen F. Austin College in Texas. He later played for the Vermont Frost Heaves, a minor league squad owned by well-known basketball scribe Alexander Wolf of Sports Illustrated fame.

“Antonio Burks is an outstanding shooter, a leader and a bj-league veteran, so he’s a great fit for our team,” Pierce told The Japan Times. “He already has a good relationship with (new Happinets players) Makoto Hasegawa and Ryosuke Mizumachi, as all three were teammates in Niigata, and that was very important in our decision.”

The 193-cm Henry turned 23 in June. His college career at Nebraska concluded in March. He played in 128 games for the Cornhuskers, averaging nearly a steal per game for the Big 12 school. He scored 8.0 points per game as a junior and 7.5 as a senior. He went to Lynwood High School in Los Angeles.

“Sek Henry from Los Angeles is a rookie point from the University of Nebraska with the potential to be one of the best point guards in the league,” said Pierce. “He gives us the ability to compete right away in this very competitive league, and he is sure to be a fan favorite throughout Japan.”

Henry’s father, Ras Michael, a Kingston native, is a veteran reggae singer. His lengthy career includes singing at the One Love Peace Concert, one of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ most famous performances, in 1978 in Jamaica.

In other league news, asia-basket.com has reported that the Osaka Evessa have signed 203-cm forward Lawrence Blackledge. The Marquette University product averaged 18.8 points and 8.7 rebounds while playing in 23 games for the BC Titans of the IBL last season.