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Popular Goya nearing return

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Guard Takanori Goya is one of the bj-league’s most well-known players, even though his career has been saddled by injuries.

The 30-year-old native of Okinawa was selected No.1 by the Toyama Grouses in the 2006 bj-league draft, and has suited up for the Grouses (2006-08), Osaka Evessa (2008), Rizing Fukuoka (2008-09), Tokyo Apache (2009-11) and Shinshu Brave Warriors (2011-13) before rejoining the new-look Evessa this season.

Goya hasn’t played in Osaka’s first eight games, and with the Evessa’s successful start (6-2), first-year coach Shunsuke Todo is taking a cautious approach to the veteran’s season debut.

“Goya will be back soon,” Todo confirmed on Thursday.

“I cannot give you the exact date, since I don’t even know, but he has already started to practice with the team, and once he feels comfortable at playing full speed, I will give him a ‘go,’ ” Todo told The Japan Times.

Last season, Goya appeared in 39 of 52 games for Shinshu. In 2011-12 he was on the floor for 33 games.

While playing under Apache coach Bob Hill during the 2010-11 campaign, he was limited to 13 games (two starts in Tokyo’s shortened 34-game season).

Knee ailments have been a consistent problem in recent seasons for the well-liked Goya, whose amiable personality and on-court intelligence have been praised by several coaches over the years, including Hill, who also led the New York Knicks, Indians Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Seattle SuperSonics before coming to Japan.

“He has played only 30 plus games (in both) the last two seasons, so my intention is to wait till he is physically and mentally ready,” Todo said.

“We will need him in the late (stage of the season) and in the playoffs.”

Todo described Goya’s offseason knee surgery as “nothing major,” adding that the team doesn’t want to rush him back for games.

“We are just making sure to bring him (along) slow so that we won’t wear him down too early,” the coach said. “He will be a huge boost for us.”

In a December 2011 analysis, this reported filed the following description of the 188-cm backcourt leader:

“Takanori Goya brings a competitive hunger to the mix and a knowledge of the league’s returning players.”

In a January 2011 interview, Hill provided keen insight on what Goya brought to the now-defunct Apache.

“I’m just now getting a real feel for what he’s capable of doing and where he fits in, and I like him a lot,” Hill told The Japan Times. “He’s got toughness. He works hard and he knows the plays, and he’s got a lot of confidence. He just got healthy so I’m bringing him along, and he makes our bench better.”

Goya averaged a career-best 9.9 points per game for Toyama in the 2007-08 season. He has been primarily a backup since that season, though in the first two campaigns of the Grouses’ existence, he started all 82 games he played in.