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Ashby makes Rizing Fukuoka fifth team in Japan career

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Another season, another team for Julius Ashby.

The veteran big man will suit up for his fifth bj-league squad, the Rizing Fukuoka, after playing for the Shiga Lakestars last season. He patrolled the middle for the Niigata Albirex BB in 2010-11, and collected paychecks from the Tokyo Apache and Takamatsu Five Arrows before that.

Ashby personifies the revolving door policy in place around the league — here today, gone tomorrow — that’s the norm.

The Lakestars, meanwhile, have signed 206-cm post player Alfred Aboya. A former UCLA player, Aboya was born in Yaounde, Cameroon. He spent the past season playing for teams in Venezuela (Bucaneros de La Guaira) and Turkey (Final Spor Genclik Bursa). He has also played in the JBL.

In other major moves, sharpshooter David Palmer, a key component of the Osaka Evessa’s dynasty, has left the defending champion Ryukyu Golden Kings for the rival Kyoto Hannaryz.

Center Gyno Pomare joins Palmer on the revamped Kyoto roster, reunited with his old Sendai coach Honoo Hamaguchi after a solid season with the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix.

Also, guard Goki Kitamura moved from the Evessa to the Hannaryz.

The Phoenix have also lost defensive stalwart Lawrence Blackledge, who was instrumental in helping the squad reach the title game for the third season in a row after he was let go by the Evessa and picked up by Hamamatsu midway through the 2011-12 season. Blackledge is one of the Iwate’s big acquisitions in recent days.

A league source said the Big Bulls have secured the services of high-scoring Carlos Dixon, who starred for the Rizing last season after playing for the Golden Kings in 2010-11, and forward Reggie Okosa, who was with Ryukyu at the start of last season.

Dillion Sneed, whose inside presence helped steer the Golden Kings to a championship in May, is also joining Iwate, where he’ll reunited with former Ryukyu coach Dai Oketani.

More moves: The Chiba Jets acquired swingman Kevin Palmer from Fukuoka for an undisclosed amount of money.

Palmer, a guard/forward, was a Best Five selection last season, scoring 21.6 points per game (tied for No. 2 overall) and averaging 2.5 steals (second-best).

The Jets are in their final season in the bj-league before defecting to the re-branded JBL for the 2013-14 campaign. . . . Forward Thomas Kennedy, who scored 18.0 ppg for Iwate last season, has finalized a deal to play for the Yokohama B-Corsairs. . . . The expansion Gunma Crane Thunders signed Serbian pivotman Ilija Milutinovic, a 211-cm Oakland University product. The 24-year-old last played for Olimpi Tbilisi in Georgia.

The Five Arrows roster now includes newcomers Paul Williams (former St. Bonaventure forward) and pro rookie Brandon Penn (Rider University forward; 12.0 ppg as a senior).

The Evessa, meanwhile, signed center Darnell Cox, asia-basket.com reported. The 27-year-old out of Mississippi Valley State most recently had a nine-game stint with Changan Group Guandong in 2011, according to the website.

And the expansion Tokyo Cinq Rêves will reportedly give ex-Kentucky center Jared Carter a chance to crack the starting lineup. The 216-cm big man was with the Summerside Storm in Canada’s NBL last season.

Coaching vacancy filled: Junichiro Hongo, a longtime high school coach in Miyazaki Prefecture, will lead the Miyazaki Shining Suns in 2012-13, it was announced recently. The 69-year-old Hongo is the league’s second-oldest coach; Akita’s Kazuo Nakamura is 71.

Hongo had been in charge of the Miyazaki-based Nobeoka Gakuen powerhouse prep program since 2000. He replaces Koto Toyama, who moved on to the champion Ryukyu Golden Kings after two-time title-winning coach Oketani left to guide Iwate.

Hongo has never coached in the professional ranks, and now his first opportunity comes for a cash-strapped team that didn’t re-sign its best player (Dexter Lyons, who has moved on to the Takamatsu Five Arrows) and saw captain Taishiro Shimizu bolt for the Oita HeatDevils weeks ago.

Expectations are very low for the Shining Suns this season, several league insiders have pointed out in recent conversations with The Japan Times.

Free agents: Maurice Hargrow, who scored 21.6 ppg for the Jets last season (tied with Kevin Palmer for No. 2 on the scoring charts), has not been offered a contract by any of the league’s 21 teams. Veteran forward Reggie Warren, meanwhile, is interested in returning to the league after previous stints with the Five Arrows, Saitama Broncos and Hannaryz. Warren is one of the top inside forces in league history.

Wacky scheduling: The B-Corsairs will play 10 straight home games from late December to early February. The second-year club opens the season on Oct. 13, with six consecutive road contests on the docket, and doesn’t play its first home game until Nov. 10.

So who authored Yokohama’s schedule?

“I think the bj-league left a few typewriters in the monkey cages at Ueno Zoo,” a league insider suggested.

Internship opportunities: The Nara Prefecture expansion team, which will join the league in 2013-14, is seeking interns to help with various tasks. For more information (in Japanese), visit www.narapro.net/internship.htm