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Friday, Nov. 30, 2007

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Golden Kings' No. 1 draft pick Takushi realizing big potential


Staff writer

Ryukyu Golden Kings point guard Naoto Takushi, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 bj-league draft, is living up to the high expectations placed on him.

Through eight games, the former Hosei University standout is No. 1 in the league in two key statistical categories: assists and steals. He's averaging 6.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

The 26-year-old has six games of 10 or more points and is putting 12.6 points per game on the board.

What's more the Golden Kings' games have been decided by a combined 57 points to date, or just a hair above seven points a game. Despite its 2-6 record, the first-year club has had all but three of its games decided by nine points or less.

Which means Takushi, the team's primary floor leader, is, well, doing his job.

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS: Tokyo Apache center Nick Davis shot 301 free throws in the bj-league's first season. He made 152 of them (50.5 percent). A year later, he attempted 269 foul shots and successfully converted 121 of them (45 percent).

One of the league's top all-around players, Davis had shown a glaring weakness at the line.

This year, he's on pace to attempt 308 shots from the line, but through Sunday's game against the Saitama Broncos, Davis had made 31 of 49 (63.3 percent). Over the course of a 44-game season, that could prove to be a significant development for a player with Davis' dynamic impact on both ends of the floor.

"He has really improved his free-throw shooting this year," Tokyo Apache coach Joe Bryant said of Davis.

Bryant observed that the right-handed shooting Davis had a hitch in his shooting motion, caused by his left arm, one that pushed the ball to the left when he shot. The two have worked to fine-tune his shooting form, striving to keep both arms lined up.

A weekly free-throw shooting drill — each Apache must make 120 free throws, 20 each at six baskets — has helped, too, according to Bryant.

AROUND THE LEAGUE: Center James Davis made his Saitama Broncos debut on Sunday at Ariake Colosseum. He was the youngest (22 years, 5 months, 13 days), tallest (215 cm) and heaviest (136 kg) player on the court.

Davis finished with eight points (2-for-2 from the field; 4-for-4 from the charity stripe) and four rebounds in seven action-packed minutes — he also took time to exchange friendly barbs with Tokyo's John Humphrey; both received technical fouls after their exchange was deemed an on-court distraction in the second quarter.

Indeed, Davis gives the size-challenged Broncos a much-needed wide body in the middle.

"He's a very good basketball player," Broncos coach David Benoit said of Davis, adding that the big fellow is in the process of getting into "basketball shape."

Benoit described Davis as a "team-oriented" player who possesses strong basketball smarts. This, the coach said, will help the Broncos become a more balanced team that won't "rely on one or two players" to carry the offensive load.

Davis, a native of Minneapolis, attended Lamar (Texas) University in 2006-07. He averaged 15.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. He played 25.6 minutes per game, but was plagued by foul trouble (eight disqualifications).

UP NEXT: The Niigata Albirex BB plays host to the Osaka Evessa in a pair of games Saturday (3:30 p.m.) and Sunday (1:30), while the Tokyo Apache take on the visiting Sendai 89ers at Ariake at 6 and 2, respectively, on the same days. In other matchups, the host Takamatsu Five Arrows face the Toyama Grouses in a two-game series between second-year clubs, with the opener set for 7 p.m. and the rematch slated for 2 in the afternoon, while the Rizing Fukuoka entertain Saitama at the same times on the same days, as does the Ryukyu Golden Kings vs. the Oita HeatDevils.

WEB WATCH: Ex-Grouses star Jerod Ward scored 44 points for the Shanghai Dongfang Sharks in a China Basketball Association game last week.



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