Basketball / BJ-League | BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Two-time MVP Washington re-signs with Evessa

by Ed Odeven

Two-time bj-league MVP Lynn Washington will return to the Osaka Evessa this season, he confirmed on Friday.

“The deal is finalized,” he said.

There was speculation that Washington, a free agent, would join the Tokyo Apache for the upcoming season, but he opted to return to the team he helped win the league’s first three championships: 2005-06, ’06-’07 and ’07-’08.

The Apache, the league runnerup in each of the past two seasons, still have not announced who will coach the team next season.

Joe Bryant, the only coach in Tokyo’s history, hasn’t signed a contract extension, and this only complicates preseason preparations for the team. The majority of the team’s roster also remains a mystery at this point.

Thus, for Washington, a return to Osaka represents a return to a stable situation. Washington, a former Indiana University player, is one of the bj-league’s most fiery players and an inspirational leader for his teammates. Double-doubles have been his trademark, as well as a penchant for thundering dunks, timely 3-point shots and an old-school feel for the game.

Washington, a prototypical power forward, was the league’s No. 2 scorer (25.9 points per game) and fourth-leading rebounder (12.9 rebounds per game) last season, but his team’s championship run ended when it lost to the eventual champion Ryukyu Golden Kings in the playoff semifinals.

More signings: In other league news, the Saitama Broncos have signed former Toyama Grouses players Mario Jointer, a guard, and Terrence Woodyard, a small forward. Both played under former Grouses coach Masato Fukushima, who is Saitama’s new floor boss.

The Broncos also signed center/power forward Kwbana Beckles, a 203-cm performer who played in the British Basketball League last season, and fellow big man Terrence Roberts, a 207-cm veteran who played in Israel in 2008-09.

The expansion Kyoto Hannaryz, meanwhile, added a big man to the roster, signing Moroccan Reda Rhalimi. This move came days after the announcement that ex-NCAA scoring sensation and NBA guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, 40, will play for the team this season.

Rhalimi, who turned 27 in February, suited up for the Moroccan national team in the 2009 FIBA Africa Championship and averaged 9.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. In the 2007 Africa Championship, he posted averages of 11.3 ppg and 6.2 rpg.

The 213-cm, 123-kg Rhalimi moved to the United States after a standout high school career in his native country. He attended Daytona Beach (Fla.) Community College for one season and then transferred to St. Mary’s College in California in 2003, working his way back into shape after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during his freshman season.

As a pro, Rhalimi has had his passport stamped in several nations. Since 2006, he’s played in Greece, France, Morocco and China, including time with the Shanghai Sharks, the team now owned by injured Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, in 2008-09.

Also this week, the Rizing Fukuoka have completed deals with four foreigners: forwards Michael Parker and Richard Ford Jr., power forward/center Isaiah Fox and guard Marlyn Bryant.

Parker, a versatile all-around player, has spent the past two seasons with the Rizing. He was the league’s leading scorer last season, averaging 26.8 ppg. Bryant is also a returning player.

The Grouses, meanwhile, have added a trio of imports: point guard/shooting guard Brandon Thomas, small forward Kirby Lemons and forward Jason Underwood.

The 193-cm Thomas, who turns 24 on Sept. 30, attended Texas State, a Southland Conference school.

Underwood, a native of Detroit, attended Centennary College in Shreveport, La. He has previously played for the Vancouver BC Titans (International Basketball League) and the Battle Creek (Mich.) Knights in the Premier Basketball League.

Lemons, who played at Louisiana-Monroe, has spent time in the JBL (for the Broncos) and in the ABA.

Government assistance?: Takamatsu Five Arrows coach John Neumann provided a brief update on the team’s financial woes on Friday evening.

“Everything is the same as before,” Neumann said, referring to the team’s need to find additional sponsors in order to avoid suspending operations for the 2009-10 season.

It has been reported the Five Arrows need ¥80 million in new sponsors — operating expenses are estimated at ¥190 million overall — this season after Anabuki Construction Inc. dropped its sponsorship of the team.

“We are handing out flyers and trying to sell things,” Neumann added. “But I have heard nothing about new sponsors and we had a meeting with the mayor of city and he said he would help, but in what way I have no idea.”

But during the economic downturn it remains to be seen how much money Takamatsu Mayor Hideto Onishi and the city would be able to set aside for the Five Arrows.

Rule changes: As the bj-league aims to pattern its rules after FIBA’s international regulations governing the sport around the world, it has extended the 3-point arc to 6.75 meters from 6.25 meters for the 2009-10 season.

In addition, a rule change has been made for technical fouls. When a coach is whistled for a technical, the other team will be awarded one free throw. For a bench technical, the opposition will also get one foul shot. Previously, the league awarded two free throws for these technical fouls.