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Friday, March 7, 2008

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Diouf gives Broncos hope


Staff writer

Mamadou "Madou" Diouf is strong, swift and agile on the basketball court.

News photo
Mamadou Diouf of the Saitama Broncos is averaging 15.0 points per game, helping his team take a 16-16 record into this weekend's pivotal series against the Osaka Evessa, the bj-league's two-time defending champions. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

And when he's performing at a high level, he's one of the bj-league's most efficient players.

He can put points on the board in a hurry, too. He scored 28 in 27 minutes on Dec. 16, 22 more in 29 minutes the following day.

On Feb. 17, he had 15 points in a foul-plagued 17-minute outing.

In the Saitama Broncos' 91-79 win over the Takamatsu Five Arrows last Sunday, Diouf scored 22 points in 29 minutes. He ran the floor with purpose, determination and a look in his eyes that seemed to say, "I will take over this game."

Five rebounds, five assists and two steals later, Diouf's productivity proved the point.

"Madou is an All-Star player, and that doesn't just happen by accident," Broncos forward Gordon James said in a post-game interview in Sakura City, Saitama Prefecture.

A native of Senegal, the 30-year-old forward attended the University of Delaware and also played for his native country in the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan.

In the 2006-07 season, Diouf, then playing for the Sendai 89ers, was chosen by the fans to be one of the starters for the inaugural All-Star Game, which was held in January in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.

Diouf was second in the league in 3-point shooting percentage last season (38.3 percent) behind the Broncos' Kazuhiro Shoji, the league's top marksman at 44.4 percent. Diouf can still stroke a shot from 3-point range (19-for-50) but he's not the team's first option from downtown.

This season, Diouf is one of many scoring options for Saitama.

The key, Broncos coach David Benoit said, is for Diouf and his teammates to not try and do too much by themselves. Collectively, working to score, defend and make things happen is when the team is at its best, the coach added.

James added: "We just have to play together. When we play together we feed off each other, everybody feeds off each other with that positive energy, and that's what happened today."

For the Broncos, the focus now shifts to the back-to-back champion Osaka Evessa, who are 25-7, lead the league in wins and will make their first visit of the season to Saitama Prefecture.

Osaka won the teams' previous meetings (81-70 on Feb. 9 and 76-71 on Feb. 10) in Kansai.

"Osaka is a very good basketball team and it's going to take the same kind of effort that we had today next week in order to be successful," Benoit said.

UP NEXT: Here's a quick rundown on this weekend's other games and a smattering of tidbits:

The Ryukyu Golden Kings (9-23) make their first appearance of the season at Ariake Colosseum against the Tokyo Apache (16-16).

Golden Kings guard Naoto Takushi is coming off a season-best 34-point outing.

The Apache have three players with 100-plus free-throw attempts: Nick Davis (161), John "Helicopter" Humphrey (148) and Cohey Aoki (127).

The Oita HeatDevils (14-18) take on the Sendai 89ers (23-9).

Oita looks to distance itself from the Rizing Fukuoka, who are two games behind in the race for the Western Conference wild-card spot.

Free-throw shooting remains problematic for the HeatDevils. They are shooting 65.2 percent from the line.

Sendai's Bobby St. Preux, who can shoot the lights out, has pulled down 39 rebounds in the past five games.

The Niigata Albirex BB (21-13) step onto their home court to face the Toyama Grouses (4-30).

In one sign of the improved overall competition of the league's players, three of the Albirex's top four scorers last Saturday were Japanese — All-Star forward Yuichi Ikeda scored 18, guard Takamichi Fujiwara had 14 and backcourt mate Naoto Kosuge 12.

The Grouses, meanwhile, continue to show that shooting guard Masayuki Kabaya has made a strong case to be part of the team's future plans; he's scored 94 points in the past four games.

The Takamatsu Five Arrows (22-10) return home after two road trips to compete against the Rizing Fukuoka (12-20). Five Arrows guard Yu Okada, a streaky shooter, is coming off an 0-for-9 weekend from 3-point land.

Joshua Peppers, the bj-league's second-leading scorer (23.8 ppg) who has missed the past three games with an ankle injury, could play this weekend, according to Rizing coach John Neumann.

THE LAST WORD: "The key to rebounding, I think, is you have to want the ball, you have to follow the ball with your eyes and get a sense of where it's going to go and then go for it."

— Gordon James, the bj-league's leading rebounder



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