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Four Akita players named All-Star starters; Fukuoka’s Aoki picked for eighth time

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Akita Northern Happinets had four players named to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad for the Jan. 26 game in Akita, the bj-league announced on Friday.

Happinets guards Yuki Togashi (14.3 points per game, tied for league lead with 6.7 assists per game) and Shigehiro Taguchi (11.1 ppg, 58 3-pointers, 43.6 percent 3-point shooting) were chosen along with Akita forwards Richard Roby (19.7 ppg) and Ruben Boykin (13.5 ppg, league-best 13.7 rebounds per game. Sendai 89ers post player Wendell White (21.0 ppg) was also named an East starter.

Roby’s older brother is New York Knicks big man Kenyon Martin.

For the Western Conference, guards Hikaru Kusaka of the Kyoto Hannaryz (has logged just 166 minutes, 1.7 ppg) and Cohey Aoki of the Rizing Fukuoka (10.0 ppg) were selected. In the frontcourt, Marshall Brown (Shiga Lakestars), Anthony McHenry (Ryukyu Golden Kings) and former Washington Wizard Edwin Ubiles (Kyoto) were picked. Brown has averaged 14.0 ppg through Sunday, McHenry is contributing 12.8 ppg and leads the 17-3 Golden Kings in assists, steals and blocks, while Ubiles is scoring 15.9 ppg.

Aoki was selected as an All-Star starter for the eighth time, a league record.

Togashi, a 20-year-old, second-year pro, had the most votes in fan balloting (48,484).
Akita leads the East with a 20-4 record.

The West’s leading vote-getter is Kusaka (34,710), an unusual choice considering the fact that the veteran guard has seen limited court time. What’s more, 10 teammates have logged more minutes than him.

Kazuo Nakamura, the Happinets’ 73-year-old bench boss, will guide the East at the eighth annual All-Star Game in his hometown. Nakamura’s assistant is Shinshu Brave Warriors coach Ryuji Kawai, his successor at Hamamatsu who has done a commendable job in guiding Shinshu’s rise to prominence in the East.
For the West, Oita’s Yukinori Suzuki will be the man in charge and Takamatsu’s Kenzo Maeda will assist him.

The East’s backups guards are Aomori’s Yuki Kitamuki (11.0 ppg, 46-for-97 3s), Iwate’s Kenichi Takahashi (10.5 ppg, 77 assists), Niigata’s Nile Murry (17.3 ppg, 81.9 free-throw percentage, team leader in assists and steals), Toyama’s Masashi Joho (a six-time All-Star selection, 16.7 ppg, 35 steals), Shinshu’s Shota Konno (13.3 ppg, 53 assists) and Yokohama’s Masayuki Kabaya (12.5 ppg, 3.8 assists per contest). Saitama swingman John “Helicopter” Humphrey, the league’s leading scorer at 22.7 ppg, is the other All-Star reserve. No true post players were picked as East backups.
The West’s reserve guards are Nara’s Taishi Kasahara (7.4 ppg), Takamatsu’s Masaaki Suzuki (4.7 ppg), Oita’s Taishiro Shimizu (13.5 ppg) and Ryukyu’s Ryuichi Kishimoto (9.6 ppg). In the frontcourt, Hamamatsu and Japan national team big man Atsuya Ota (6.0 ppg), plus Osaka’s Zach Andrews (9.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Shimane’s Jeral Davis (16.0 ppg, 2.6 blocks a game) were chosen.

Skills contests: Six players were chosen to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest: Gunma’s Yutaka Suzuki, Ubiles, Toyama’s Ira Brown, Andrews, Davis and Tokyo’s Edward Morris. … For the 3-Point Shootout, Kitamuki, Taguchi, Shinshu’s Patrick Sanders, Tokyo’s Yuji Ide and Kabaya are all first-time participants, while reigning champion Yu Okada of Kyoto will also compete.

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