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Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008

BJ-LEAGUE

Big changes across bj-league in offseason


Staff writer

The bj-league's offseason shakeup continues.

Power forward Gordon James, the league's top rebounder for the past two seasons, will play for the Takamatsu Five Arrows in 2008-09. He'll be joined on the squad by fellow All-Star Matt Garrison, a fan favorite who won the 3-point shooting contest in each of the past two seasons. The moves were announced Friday by the fourth-year league.

James, a native of Guyana, provided inside muscle and non-stop energy for the Saitama Broncos. The 28-year-old attended the Division II University of Bridgeport in Connecticut before his pro career took him to Portugal and then Japan.

Garrison, 35, gave the Niigata Albirex BB a strong perimeter shooting touch and a steadying influence on the team's younger players. He went out of his way to reach out to Albirex supporters, signing autographs, shaking hands and posing for pictures with fans whenever he was asked.

Despite the change of address, James will step into his familiar position in the Five Arrows' frontcourt, replacing two-time All-Star Reggie Warren, who moved north to Saitama.

In recent weeks, other clubs have made big offseason moves as well. Power forward Andy Ellis, who led the league in scoring (25.1 points per game) last season, joined the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix after two seasons as a member of the Oita HeatDevils.

The Tokyo Apache, meanwhile, signed center Julius Ashby, who helped lead Takamatsu to the bj-league championship game in its inaugural season of 2006-07. Ashby, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, was drafted by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League last season but didn't make the opening day roster.

The Toyama Grouses, the league's worst team for the past two seasons, meanwhile, have yet to announce the signing of any foreign players for the upcoming season, which tips off on Oct. 11.

Toyama's No. 1 draft pick two seasons ago, point guard Takanori Goya, was acquired by the three-time defending champion Osaka Evessa in the offseason.

The Evessa also picked up versatile forward Nick DeWitz, who can score from anywhere on the court and proved as much during his debut season in the league as a member of the Sendai 89ers in 2007-08.

Center Jeff Newton, a key player on the three championship teams, has moved to Okinawa to play for the Ryukyu Golden Kings. The second-year team will begin play under new coach Dai Oketani, the ex-HeatDevils coach.



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