Basketball / BJ-League

Defensive stalwart Blackledge leaves Evessa

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Osaka Evessa have parted ways with versatile forward Lawrence Blackledge, The Japan Times has learned.

Blackledge is the bj-league’s second-leading shot blocker (3.0 per game) and tied for ninth in rebounds (10.0). In 22 games, he averaged 9.4 points.

Blackledge’s release wasn’t official at press time on Tuesday. But sources confirmed he is no longer playing for the title-contending Evessa.

Osaka (17-5) has also cut forward Lavell Payne, a Central Florida product. In 21 games, Payne averaged 5.0 points.

Blackledge is on the verge of joining the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix in the coming days, according to a league insider.

The Evessa, meanwhile, plan to add former Oita and Sendai 89ers standout Mike Bell, a high-scoring forward, well-informed sources said.

Bell, a 206-cm veteran averaged 21.3 points and 12.4 rebounds for Oita in 2009-10, both averages in the top five in the league. Last season, the Florida Atlantic University product averaged 18.5 ppg for Sendai before the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake ended the 89ers’ season. After that, he saw action for teams in Qatar and Bahrain to complete the season.

Also Tuesday, the Oita HeatDevils released center Zach Atkinson.

The 206-cm Atkinson averaged 6.7 points in 24 games (seven starts). On Christmas Day, Atkinson had his best game of the season, finishing with 15 points, 20 rebounds and three assists in a blowout loss to the Ryukyu Golden Kings.

Oita has the league’s second-worst record (5-19).

League accolade: Rookie forward Justin Burrell helped the Yokohama B-Corsairs sweep the Saitama Broncos last weekend. He is the Lawson/Ponta Player of the Week, the bj-league announced on Tuesday.

Burrell, the Big East Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year winner last season, had 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in a two-point triumph over Saitama on Friday. A day later, he scored 33 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

The 23-year-old Burrell is averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game for expansion club Yokohama, which is 11-13 at the All-Star break.