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Larkai helps grow the game at NBA clinic in Ghana

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

After the season ends, many players like to lounge by the pool or the nearest beach.

Others enjoy barbecues and typical vacations with family and friends, relaxing as often as possible before the daily grind of the preseason commences.

Center Dzaflo Larkai, on the other hand, was in Ghana for the first time last weekend, serving as an instructor for the second annual SpriteBall Basketball Clinic, which was held in Accra and Cape Coast.

Larkai, who suited up for the Sendai 89ers last season, was joined in his ancestral homeland by Miami Heat forward and nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Bosh in an event put together by NBA Africa and the Ghana Basketball Association. One objective of the clinic was to chose a Ghanian player for the 2014 Basketball Without Borders program, which the NBA has scheduled for August in South Africa.

One hundred players, ranging in age from 16-19, were selected to participate.

Last summer, NBA players Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu both took part in the clinic. They are Larkai’s friends and sparked his interest in participating in this year’s clinic, he told The Japan Times by phone from England on Thursday.

The 203-cm Larkai, a British native who won a pair of bj-league titles with the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (2009-10, 2010-11) and another with the Ryukyu Golden Kings (2011-12), helped Bosh and the GBA and NBA Africa organizers teach the assembled teenagers instructional skills and oversee drills. Players also had a chance to participate in 3-point and slam dunk competitions.

Working together, Larkai and Bosh demonstrated key defensive techniques such as shell drills and rotations, Larkai said. They also teamed up to show proper ways to do various post moves, giving drop-step pointers, for example.

During the weekend activities, when Larkai was introduced along with Bosh, it gave him instant credibility.

Larkai, who has played for the Britain national team, said people thought, ‘He’s with Chris, so he must be doing something good, too.’ ”

“It was a good opportunity to work with somebody like Chris,” he added.

The 32-year-old Larkai described the weekend as “very exciting, a great experience” and admitted he was “happy to be present there and great to interact with the people.”

Asked to assess the atmosphere at the clinics, Larkai said the teenagers were “like sponges” and “extremely receptive to instruction.”

“They have the talent and for them to go far it will take a lot of dedication and hard work,” he told reporters in Ghana covering the event, according to citifmonline.com.

In a Facebook post, Larkai summed up the trip this way: “I’m glad I got to return to my roots. . .”

Larkai is weighing his options for next season and waiting to see which team he’ll play for. He said he’s waiting to hear from his agent about the matter.

He averaged 11.7 points in 43 games last season.

Solid numbers: Point guard Yuki Togashi appeared in his third NBA Summer League game for the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

In nearly 11 minutes of court time, Togashi poured in 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 2-for-2 from beyond the 3-point arc against the Charlotte Hornets. He converted a nifty floater in the lane that was included in an NBA.com highlights package of the game. He also made a steal.

Togashi, 20, spent the past two seasons with the Akita Northern Happinets, earning the All-Star Game MVP honors in January, the league assist title and Best Five (all-league) accolades as well.

In a Wednesday article posted on philly.com, Bob Cooney wrote, “One of (Mavericks owner Mark) Cuban’s players, 5-7 guard Yuki Togashi, from Japan, got yesterday’s biggest ovation.”

Around the league: Shot-blocking maestro Jeral Davis, recovering from a hip injury that sidelined him from early February until the end of last season, won’t return to Shimane. What’s more, versatile 200-cm guard Omar Reed, who gave the revamped B-Corsairs 15.9 points and an eye-popping 11.0 rebounds a game, won’t be back with Yokohama for a second season, sources familiar with both situations told The Japan Times.

The sources insisted there’s no chance Davis and Reed, who arrived in Japan after collegiate careers at NAIA schools (Talladega State and Bluefield College, respectively) that rarely sent players on to pro careers, will return to Shimane and Yokohama.

The 216-cm Davis, nicknamed “Stretch,” has been the league’s premier shot blocker since 2010, when Shimane entered the league.

Staying put: Shooting guard Masashi Joho, the 2013-14 regular-season MVP, is returning to Toyama for a fourth season, the Grouses announced on Wednesday.

The team has already finalized deals with big man Sam Willard and guard Takeshi Mito for the upcoming season.

Joho, who has vacationed in Hawaii recently, said in a team-issued statement that although Toyama’s goal of capturing a title was not achieved last season, “we are going all out this year.”

Moving north: Guard Satoshi Ishitani, a backup with Fukuoka since 2008, has reached an agreement on a contract with Aomori for next season. The 29-year-old averaged 2.4 points in 46 games last season.

Meanwhile, Wat’s coach Koju Munakata’s club this week also re-signed forward Gordon Klaiber, a key part of the Tohoku franchise’s success in its inaugural campaign (27-25 record, playoff appearance). The Fairleigh Dickinson product had a team-high 17.2 ppg scoring average.

The Wat’s shored up their backcourt with the addition of Kenichi Takahashi, who suited up for Sendai from 2006-12 and the past two seasons played for Iwate. Helping the Big Bulls post a 40-12 record in his second season with Iwate, Takahashi averaged 10.1 ppg and knocked down a team-high 70 3-pointers.

Iwate roster moves: The Big Bulls have re-signed Scootie Randall, who poured in 14.9 points in 44 games last season. The team also added 30-year-old swingman Wayne Arnold, a title winner with Hamamatsu who has last suited up for Shiga in the bj-league. He’s also played in Austria and Angola.

Blessed with a smooth jump shot, the Tennessee State alum has a knack for stretching the defense and drilling big buckets from the perimeter.

Iwate has also recently worked out a contract with post player Abdullahi Kuso, who provided Aomori with 10.2 points, 10.5 rebounds (No.8 in the league) and 72 blocked shots last season.

Takamatsu transactions: Floor leader Dexter Lyons, an instrumental figure in the team’s resurrection after a 50-loss 2011-12 season, will be back in a Five Arrows uniform for a third season. Lyons finished as the league’s No. 7 scorer (17.6) last season. The Shikoku-based squad also added 205-cm big man B.J. Puckett, who was a workhorse in the paint for former Shimane coach Zeljko Pavlicevic’s team. Since leaving the Susanoo Magic in 2012, Puckett has played in Mexico and Chile.

Back to Fukuoka: After a solid season with Iwate, forward Josh Peppers is returning to the Rizing. He chipped in with 12.9 points in 52 games for the Big Bulls, adding 242 rebounds and 59 steals. The durable, explosive scorer was a key spark off the bench for Iwate. He helped the Rizing advance to the championship game in 2013 for the first time.

A rookie’s opportunity: Post player Stephan Van Treese, who helped Louisville reach two Final Fours during his four-year collegiate career that wrapped up in the spring, is joining Niigata for the 2014-15 campaign, according to published reports.

The 206-cm Van Treese is scheduled to depart for Japan on Aug. 27, kyforward.com reported.

Van Treese, who is from Indianapolis, started 21 games for the Rick Pitino-coached Cardinals last season. He contributed 2.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in around 21 minutes a game. Louisville won the NCAA title in Van Treese’s junior season.

On July 11, Van Treese tweeted, “Japan it is. Pumped for my opportunity & can’t wait.”

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