Big man Newton joins Ryukyu

The Japan Times

Center Jeff Newton, a key component of the Osaka Evessa’s three bj-league championship teams, has signed a contract to play for the Ryukyu Golden Kings, the bj-league announced on Saturday.

Newton, The Japan Times’ 2007-08 bj-league MVP, played collegiate basketball at Indiana University with Evessa power forward Lynn Washington. He led the league in blocked shots (3.4 per game) and was second in rebounds (13.3) while scoring 19.9 points per game.

In three years with the Evessa, Newton routinely had double-digit totals in points and rebounds and gave coach Kensaku Tennichi a cornerstone to build the frontcourt around. Osaka signed forward Eric Walton, who played for the Golden Kings in the team’s inaugural season, to fill a roster spot. The Golden Kings have also added 208-cm center Chris Ayer, who made big improvements in his second year with the Oita HeatDevils last season.

Coming off a 10-34 season the Golden Kings hope to qualify for the playoffs in their second season and first under Dai Oketani, the former Oita coach.

The Evessa will also have to cope with the loss of All-Star point guard Matt Lottich, who has moved to Germany to play for Duesseldorf Giants.