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Friday, Nov. 9, 2007

BJ-LEAGUE

U.S. company, bj-league ink deal


Staff writer

During its young history, the bj-league has taken big, bold steps to become a successful professional organization, including an aggressive expansion plan as the main tool for nationwide exposure.

On Thursday, the third-year league took another big step, announcing an official partnership with an American corporation, Palo Verde Holdings, and the planned opening of a bj-league international office in Austin, Texas.

Texas businessman Vince Rawl, the co-owner of the Oita HeatDevils along with Hirofumi Yano, will invest $4 million over the next three years.

In return, the bj-league will open Palo Verde's restaurants and coffee shops at its venues on game days.

The league will also begin a new grassroots training program, including summer camps for coaches and players under the leadership of ex-NBA assistant coach Howie Landa and ex-UNLV college player Linda Staley.

"We're going to put our office in Austin," bj-league commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi said, adding Texas is an ideal location due to the state's three NBA teams, two WNBA teams and two NBA Development League teams.

Rawl, the first foreign owner in a Japanese pro sports league, called Kawachi's decision to start the bj-league a "leap of faith."

He added: "It's my great desire to do everything and anything I can to help the league succeed because . . . without a strong league, a strong team has nothing."



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