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Akita releases star guard Burns

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Star guard Draelon Burns sustained an eye injury playing pickup basketball in late August in Milwaukee, and his plans to play for the Akita Northern Happinets have been derailed.

The bj-league team announced on Thursday it has voided his contract after an eye doctor in Akita recommended surgery and three months’ rest to heal a fractured bone under his right eye. Burns has been bothered by double vision in the eye.

Burns, 28, arrived in Japan late last month, but will rest in the United States to let the eye heal. He departed Japan on Thursday.

“I’ll take this time to relax the mind and come back better than ever,” Burns wrote on Facebook.

“My plans are to come back to any team (in Japan),” added Burns in a Friday interview with The Japan Times. “I like playing in Japan and I love my fans there.”

Burns was a key offseason acquisition for Akita coach Kazuo Nakamura’s squad after he played two banner seasons, including back-to-back Final Fours, for the Yokohama B-Corsairs. In May, the DePaul University product helped lead the second-year franchise to a championship. He sank the game-winning shot in the final seconds of the Eastern Conference final against the Niigata Albirex BB to propel Yokohama into the title game.

The stellar sixth man averaged 20.4 points (fourth-best total), 4.8 assists (No. 5 overall) and 2.0 steals (tied for third) for Yokohama in 2012-13 and was named to the all-league Best Five team.

Takamatsu outlook: Swingman Dexter Lyons is a team leader for the Takamatsu Five Arrows and a demanding mentor for his teammates.

The Five Arrows made big strides last season, improving from 2-50 in 2011-12 to 20-32.

Now, the Shikoku club is aiming to reach the playoffs.

“Really, I think it is vital for our ballclub to establish our presence early on defense as a team,” Lyons told The Japan Times in a recent interview.

“Last season we tended to give up leads in crucial moments of the games, mostly coming from inexperienced chemistry as a unit. If we can focus on getting stops, I think we have a big chance at making history.”

Lyons believes the Five Arrows took a step in the right direction last season, but thinks the team has potential to be much better.

“I fell like last season was an insight to where this ballclub is (striving) to get back to being a contender in this league once again,” he said.

“With the majority of players back and the coaching staff back as well, I think we have a chance of doing some major moves this season.”