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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

BJ-LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE MONTH

Nakagawa, Ashby cited for performance in Feb.


Staff writer

With the addition of point guard Kazuyuki Nakagawa, the Takamatsu Five Arrows became a more potent basketball team in January.

Need proof?

The bj-league team won its first 10 games with him on the roster this season, and coasted to a 7-1 record during February.

Nakagawa is The Japan Times' Offensive Player of the Month for February.

A former ABA and USBL player, Nakagawa, made his season debut on Jan. 17 and scored 15 points. He's averaging 14.4 points per game.

What's more, Nakagawa gives Five Arrows coach Motofumi Aoki the luxury of having essentially two point guards — Nakagawa and Rasheed Sparks, a two-time bj-league Slam Dunk Contest champion — in the starting lineup. Sparks shifts over to shooting guard, which frees up Nakagawa and sharpshooter Yu Okada for more good looks on the perimeter.

The 26-year-old Nakagawa's true worth was felt in back-to-back, morale-boosting victories on Feb. 15 and 21.

In the former, he had 22 points in a win over the Western Conference-leading Ryukyu Golden Kings. In the latter, he finished with 20 in a blowout victory over the Osaka Evessa, the three-time defending champions.

Tokyo Apache coach Joe Bryant issued a challenge to Julius Ashby after his lethargic eight-point, seven-rebound effort in 32 minutes on Feb. 4 against the Niigata Albirex BB, telling the talented big man the team needs more production from him.

Ashby answered the challenge. He had 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots in the Apache's second consecutive double-digit loss in the next game. In essence, that game set the tone for a fantastic February for the former University of Colorado player.

Tokyo won its next five games as Ashby's presence on the defensive end paid dividends. He swatted 10 shots during the winning streak and had 26 rejections in February.

Ashby is The Japan Times' Defensive Player of the Month.

He is No. 6 in the league in blocked shots (2.0 per game).



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