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Ryukyu brings in Kent to try and fill Newton’s shoes

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Ryukyu Golden Kings will begin defense of their title with a new veteran in the frontcourt in the post-Jeff Newton era.

Ball State product Anthony Kent has signed a contract to play for the Western Conference powerhouse squad for the 2014-15 campaign.

Ryukyu announced the move on Tuesday along with the re-signing of center Kibwe Trim, a major contributor during the past season, and 22-year-old forward Shinji Arashiro, who played sparingly.

The Kings, who set a league record with a 43-9 regular-season record en route to their third title during league legend and current free agent Newton’s tenure with the team, have already brought back forward Anthony McHenry, a do-it-all leader on three championship teams, and guards Draelon Burns, Ryuichi Kishimoto, Naoto Kosuge, Narito Namizato and Morihisa Yamauchi.

Forward Yoshiki Yamashiro, a backup since the team’s inception in 2007, retired earlier this summer, a few months shy of his 30th birthday in September.

Kent, who turns 32 on Sunday, appeared in all 54 games, including two playoff contests for the Aomori Wat’s in their first season. The 208-cm big man averaged 7.5 points and 6.8 rebounds. He played for the Akita Northern Happinets in the 2012-13 season and suited up for the NBA Development League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants (2008-11) and Maine Red Claws (2011-12) before coming to Japan. According to statistics posted on nba.com, Kent has appeared in 186 D-League games (65 starts) and averaged 19.7 minutes, 5.2 points and 4.4 rebounds.

“I am grateful to become a member of a championship team,” Kent said in a statement. “I will fight hard for the team. . .”

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Kent also competed in the French League for JAS Bordeaux prior to his D-League stints.

Magic acquisition: Shimane on Tuesday finalized a one-year deal with 23-year-old forward James Padgett. The former University of Maryland Terrapin suited up for Korihait, a Finnish League squad, last season. The 203-cm Padgett averaged 15.7 points (second-highest total) and a team-best 9.9 rebounds in 37 games, according to eurobasket.com.

“I am blessed and honored to be joining my new team Shimane Magic,” Padgett said in a statement. “I am excited to get to work with my new team and anxious to play for coach (Reggie) Hanson. I look forward to this being an exciting season and enjoying all that Japan has to offer.”

Future aspirations: Forward Adrian Moss, who helped the Bambitious Nara win 19 games in their inaugural season, was the subject of a lead item in Kevin Brockway’s gatorsports.com basketball blog on July 17.

Moss was a backup on the University of Florida’s 2006 NCAA championship squad.

His college coach, Billy Donovan, “suggested at the time he could see Moss as a future coach, but Moss has another idea for a future career path,” Brockway wrote.

“I would rather have my own sports talk show,” Moss was quoted as saying.

“Probably go that way. I think I would enjoy that a lot.”

After his playing days, Moss admitted he’s prepared to pursue his career in broadcasting in the smallest of communities.

“If I have to start out at a station with two watts in some town in Iowa, I wouldn’t mind doing that,” he told Brockway. “I’ve played in some obscure cities in Europe, some obscure cities in South America, now I’m playing in some obscure city in Japan. Being on the radio late at night in some weird town in the States doesn’t bother me at all.”

In the article, Moss said he expects to resume is playing career in Japan this fall.

In the paint: The Saitama Broncos have signed forward Jon Ekey, who wrapped up his collegiate career at the University of Illinois in the spring, according to published reports.

Ekey had spent three seasons at Illinois State, but transferred to use up his last season of eligibility.

He played in 35 games (23 starts) for the Illini. He was the team’s fourth-leading scorer (7.3 points) and third-best rebounder (4.8). He made several noteworthy shots as a senior, including a game-winning 3-pointer in the final second against Iowa on March 8 and another clutch 3 in the last minute against Missouri on Dec. 21, 2013.

Now, Ekey admits he’s excited to begin the next chapter in his basketball career. And he calls it a dream come true.

“It’s kind of one of those dreams I had when I was younger,” Ekey said, according to an article last week in The News-Gazette, an Illinois newspaper. “When I played on the AAU circuit, people talked about playing Division I and maybe pro after that. At that stage, I didn’t know if that would actually happen, but I sat down with my mom one night at the kitchen table and we laid all that out, about what could happen.

All the hard work that I’ve done and everyone that has helped me, it means a lot to say I’m a pro basketball player.”

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