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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BJ-LEAGUE

Five Arrows hire Neumann


Staff writer

The Takamatsu Five Arrows have filled their coaching vacancy, hiring veteran floor boss John Neumann as the team's new head coach. The announcement was made on Tuesday.

News photo
Back in business: John Neumann, who led the Rizing Fukuoka the past two seasons, has been named head coach of the bj-league's Takamatsu Five Arrows. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Neumann, who is presently in Moldova with his family, will return to the bj-league after being let go by the Rizing Fukuoka. He guided the Kyushu team for the past two seasons, leading it to postseason play both times.

"It's a great honor to become the head coach for Takamatsu," Neumann said in a statement released by the team. "Our goal is to make the playoffs and advance to the Final Four. It is going to be a big challenge for the team and myself. But I believe our team's play should reach that level around the time of the playoffs."

Last week, the Five Arrows formally announced the firing of Motofumi Aoki, who posted an 88-48 record in three seasons as Takamatsu's coach and guided the club to the bj-league title game in its first season (2006-007). The Five Arrows, however, failed to advance to the conference finals in each of the past two seasons despite having a wealth of talent.

Neumann's expansion Fukuoka team earned an improbable road upset in the 2007-08 wild-card round, beating Takamatsu 112-94 on April 20, 2008. The Five Arrows entered that game with a 30-14 record, while the Rizing were 20-24. But Fukuoka executed its game plan and left the Five Arrows powerless as it drained 11 of 20 3-pointers and collected a whopping 20 steals.

It's safe to suggest that Takamatsu's front-office staff was impressed by the way Neumann's team switched effectively between a zone, man-to-man and full-court pressure defense and drained long-range shots with ease in the aforementioned game when stakes were high and playoff pressure defined the afternoon's contest.

Now, the Five Arrows hope Neumann, who turns 58 in September, can transform the team into a title contender. He was the bj-league's 2007-08 Coach of the Year and earned the award in five different European leagues during a coaching career that began in the early 1980s.

Takamatsu had a strong three-guard lineup of Rasheed Sparks, Kazuyuki Nakagawa and Yu Okada, with center Babacar Camara, who replaced the injured George Leach after joining the club in February, and power forward Gordon James, a two-time bj-league rebounding champion, providing a solid foundation in the frontcourt.

It's uncertain at this point if Leach or Camara will return as the pivotman. Camara is registered to participate in the Korean Basketball League pre-draft tryout camp next month in Las Vegas, according to Asia-basket.com.

Nakagawa, meanwhile, has wrapped up his three-day participation in the NBA Development League pre-draft tryout camp, which was held last weekend in Los Angeles. He could leave the bj-league team and play in the U.S. next season, but would give Neumann's squad a boost if he played a full season in Takamatsu.

Nakagawa, 27, hasn't played a full season in any of the past three seasons in the bj-league, suiting up for Takamatsu (2006-07, 2008-09) and Fukuoka (2007-08) after New Year's Day all three times.

Also Tuesday, the Saitama Broncos traded their 2010 first-round pick to the Osaka Evessa for veteran small forward Kazuya Hatano, who starred on the Evessa's three championship teams.

Hatano had been protected by Osaka, but the rights to the Brazil native shifted to Saitama, which reached a contractual agreement with him.



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