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Struggling Gunma signs two veterans to bolster lineup


Staff Writer

Two additions, two subtractions.

With roughly one-fourth of the season completed, the Gunma Crane Thunders are revamping their roster. They announced earlier this week the acquisition of veterans Carlos Dixon, a forward, and Sylvester Morgan, a center.

The Eastern Conference squad released post player Lewis Witcher, who averaged 4.9 points and 3.7 rebounds in 14 games, and forward Marvell Waithe (15.9 points per game).

Call it a timely shakeup. Through Sunday, Gunma is one of three teams with a league-worst 2-12 record — the Saitama Broncos and Shimane Susanoo Magic are the others — and bench boss Ryan Blackwell acknowledged major changes were needed to bolster the team’s offense.

“We needed veteran leadership and both players bring that,” Blackwell told The Japan Times. “Carlos is a great playmaker/scorer, which we were lacking. He will be able to make plays for everybody and get the offense going more as well as take pressure off our other guards.

“We also needed more interior scoring and defense. Sylvester will be a big presence for us in the post and he can extend the defense with his outside touch and skills.

“We need to score more points. We haven’t reached the 80-point mark since our last exhibition game.”

Gunma is averaging 69 points per game.

Dixon, a Virginia Tech product, played for the Iwate Big Bulls last season after past stints with the Rizing Fukuoka and Ryukyu Golden Kings. The 32-year-old averaged 16.3 points and 6.6 rebounds for Iwate last season. He’s also played in Argentina and South Korea.

The 30-year-old Morgan, a Georgia State alum, suited up for the Rizing in the 2009-10 campaign. His career has also included stops in Germany, Brazil, Venezuela, South Korea, France, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Ukraine and for the NBA Development League’s Utah Flash.

Shimane signs Cummings: Veteran forward T.J. Cummings, who played for the Akita Northern Happinets and Sendai 89ers last season and posted averages of 22.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, has joined the Shimane Susanoo Magic. The move was announced Wednesday. The 205-cm forward is the son of Terry Cummings, a longtime NBA standout.

“I’m very excited to come to Shimane and play for the organization,” Cummings said in a statement. “I will work very hard to make sure that I represent the team as well as myself in a great way.”

The 32-year-old Cummings’ pro career has included stops in the NBA Development League, China, Belgium, Puerto Rico and South Korea. He starred for the Oita HeatDevils in the 2011-12 campaign.

Player of the week: Takamatsu’s Dexter Lyons was named the Lawson/Ponta Weekly MVP, the league announced Tuesday. Lyons scored 35 points in an overtime home triumph on Friday, adding 10 rebounds, seven assists and five steals against Osaka. A day later, he had 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals as the Five Arrows earned a series sweep.

Upcoming schedule: This week’s action tipped off on Thursday, with Fukuoka playing host to Shiga. Nine series get under way on Saturday: Aomori vs. Yokohama, Iwate vs. Shinshu, Akita vs. Gunma, Sendai vs. Saitama, Niigata vs. Tokyo, Kyoto vs. Toyama, Osaka vs. Shimane, Nara vs. Hamamatsu and Takamatsu vs. Oita.

By the numbers: Akita is a league-best 8-0 at home, followed by Ryukyu and Niigata (both 7-1). Sendai is 0-8 in away contests; every other team has chalked up a road victory. . . . Akita’s Yuki Togashi, a 20-year-old guard, has played a league-high 564 minutes through Sunday.

Honored: The Bambitious Nara will make distinguished film director Naomi Kawase, a Nara Prefecture native, the first honorary member of the team’s fan club. She will be recognized at the team’s Dec. 21 game against the Sendai 89ers in Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture.

Cousin update: Former Kyoto big man Marcus Cousin, a starter on last year’s Fina Four squad, has joined Krasny Oktyabr, a team based in Volgograd, Russia, in the 20-team VTB United League. The up-and-coming pro circuit features 10 Russian teams plus the rest coming from neighboring European nations.

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