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Hannaryz sign Werner; Aoki heads home to Fukuoka

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Power forward Joe Werner, one of the top newcomers in the bj-league last season, will return for another go-round in Japan.

But the Chiba Jets, the team he helped carry into the playoffs while averaging 19.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, are no longer in the 21-team circuit. The Jets have defected to the 12-team National Basketball League (renamed JBL).

Instead, Werner is joining the Kyoto Hannaryz, who are coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances under bench boss Honoo Hamaguchi.

Among the premier pure athletes in the bj-league, the 201-cm Werner was the league’s sixth-leading scorer and sixth-leading rebounder last season.

In the summer of 2007, he was at Green Bay Packers training camp, competing for a roster spot at tight end.

Werner was released before the 2007 NFL regular season began, but the fact that the Packers invited him to camp even though he didn’t play college ball at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-La Crosse illustrates that Green Bay’s coaching staff recognized Werner’s athletic skills right away during a mini-camp in May 2007.

Now firmly established as a pro — he’s also had stints in Australia and Germany — Werner is focused on contributing to Kyoto’s success.

“I think the Kyoto Hannaryz are one of the top-level teams in Japan,” Werner said in a statement, “and I want to be able to contribute to the success of the team. It is a long season . . . and our goal is to win it at the end of the season.”

Aoki leaves Tokyo: Seven-time All-Star guard Cohey Aoki has agreed to a one-year deal to play for his hometown Rizing Fukuoka this season.

Aoki, the most popular player in league history, starred for the Tokyo Apache from 2005-11 and the Osaka Evessa in 2011-12 before giving the expansion Tokyo Cinq Reves a recognizable presence during their inaugural season.

Aoki averaged 14.3 points in 48 games for the Cinq Reves.

Now, he joins a Rizing squad, coming off a championship runnerup finish, that appointed a new head coach, Mack Tuck, last week.

With rising star Akitomo Takeno in the same backcourt rotation, Fukuoka will have a pair of potent Japanese perimeter scorers. (In addition, both veterans consistently knock down free throws with in the 80-90 percent success rate.)

Woods update: The Cinq Reves have secured the services of high-scoring forward Ricky Woods for the 2013-14 season, the bj-league club announced on Wednesday.

The move was expected for several weeks, according to multiple league insiders familiar with Tokyo’s personnel plans for their second season.

Woods attended Southeastern Louisiana University before turning pro. The Cinq Reves are his fourth team in Japan. He began last season with the now-defunct Miyazaki Shining Suns (19 games) before moving to Tokyo. He’s had previous stints with the Akita Northern Happinets and Oita HeatDevils.

The 194-cm forward averaged 21.9 points per game between Tokyo and Miyazaki last season.

Woods said he’s looking forward to the season’s start in October. In a statement posted on the team website, he called last season a “very good time” with the new franchise.

“I am pleased to fight this season with my teammates and one of the (league’s) best coaches (Motofumi Aoki) for the fans,” Woods said in a statement.

Back in Saitama: Reigning scoring champion John “Helicopter” Humphrey is returning to the Saitama Broncos for a third season, but first under new coach Takatoshi “Big Bashi” Ishibashi.

Humphrey scored 27.2 ppg in 2012-13 for Saitama, which went 15-37 and missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.

Career change: Matt Garrison, the 2012-13 bj-league Coach of the Year, is now working at the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Billings, Montana, his hometown.

“It will be an adjustment from the ‘sidelines’ to the ‘showroom,’ ” he wrote on Facebook, “but I’m up for the challenge and can’t wait to get started.”

Garrison coached the Niigata Albirex BB for two seasons and guided the club to the Final Four in May. He was replaced by Fujitaka “Bomber” Hiraoka, his former assistant.

Deals done: Josh Peppers, the well-traveled, high-scoring forward, has joined the Iwate Big Bulls, the team recently announced, confirming a report in The Japan Times last month that he would not be back with the Fukuoka for another season. Peppers helped the Rizing reach the title game on May 19, a 101-90 defeat to the Yokohama B-Corsairs.

The Big Bulls have also added former Yokohama big man Faye Pape Mour to their lineup for the 2013-14 season. A native of Senegal, Mour made impressive strides in his two seasons playing under ex-coach Reggie Geary, who is the new Chiba sideline supervisor.

More transactions: The Takamatsu Five Arrows have solidified their rotation for the upcoming season by locking up big man Paul Williams and versatile leader Dexter Lyons for their second seasons with the club. . . .

The Rizing, meanwhile, have finalized a deal with center Julius Ashby for his second season in a Fukuoka uniform. . . . The Gunma Crane Thunders completed paperwork to bring back guards Yuto Okumoto and Kenya Tomori and acquired free agent guard Hirohisa Takada, who played for the Osaka Evessa from 2009-12 before moving on to the Cinq Reves last season.

Golden Kings sign two: Center Kibwe Trim and forward Scootie Randall are the latest players to join the Okinawan powerhouse squad.

Trim, a former Kyoto Hannaryz player (2010-11), was with KGC of the Korean Basketball League last season and averaged 7.0 points and 5.7 rebounds. He converted 64.6 percent of his field-goal attempts. The 209-cm Trim is a native of Trinidad and Tobago.

Randall wrapped up his collegiate career in the spring for Temple University.

As a senior, the 198-cm Randall averaged 11.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Owls.

Feedback: Got a story idea about the bj-league? Send an email to edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp