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Monday, Oct. 12, 2009

BJ-LEAGUE

Aoki takes on more responsibility as primary point guard


Staff writer

For the Tokyo Apache, Cohey Aoki is once again one of the main attractions this season.

News photo
Little big man: Tokyo Apache point guard Cohey Aoki, now in his fifth season on the team, is hungry to win a title this season after helping his team reach the bj-league championship game in each of the past two seasons. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

But he might show a different side of his game as he was appointed to be the team's primary point guard in the 2009-10 season.

"It's clear that I am going to be a point guard this year," Aoki said after Tuesday night's season-opening contest against the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix at Yoyogi Gymnasium No. 2.

"So I'm thinking how I should lead the team, and I've been told that I still need to go for scores and I'm very aware of my shot selections."

In past seasons, Aoki split his time at both backcourt positions.

One of the strengths of Aoki, who had 17 and 28 points, respectively, in the season's first two games, both Apache losses, is long-range shots, a byproduct of his exceptional shooting touch. But in the season opener, he only took two shots from behind the 3-point arc (and made one of them).

"I had a chance to shoot 3-pointers in the middle and later (stages) of the game, but considering the game flow, I didn't," Aoki said of the season opener.

The Apache landed Motofumi Aoki, no relation to the All-Star guard, as their new head coach due after the departure of American Joe Bryant, the team's original head coach, this past offseason.

Bryant always would call Aoki "a tough cookie" and treated him as a special player for the team, which finished runnerup in the past two bj-league campaigns.

Aoki's impact — keyed by his savvy, well-rounded offensive repertoire and mental strength — shouldn't diminish for the new floor general, who had coached the Takamatsu Five Arrows since the team's inaugural season in 2006 until last season.

The new coach didn't mention specific names, but he said that he would capitalize on the team's strengths from the past. High-scoring guard Aoki is obviously part of it.

"When he was in Takamatsu, it appeared that he was emphasizing on inside (offense)," Aoki said of his coach and his Five Arrows, which featured dominant presence in the paint from former players Reggie Warren and George Leach. "But he knows the Apache's good points that we had built in the past and is saying that he wants to unite those to establish a new Apache team."

This season, however, Tokyo fans are looking for a Cohey Aoki who won't be much different from past years — the tiny cookie beats big guys with his kaleidoscopic moves and phenomenal shooting skills, including three free-throw shooting titles and a 90.7 percent career percentage at the line.

"One thing I want to say to (coach Aoki) is, I'll do a better job than he's seen at the Five Arrows," said the 28-year-old, who averaged 13.3 points last season, with a smile. "I think I'm a point guard he's not seen before.

"I don't want to change my style of game much, but at the same time I must do what he wants me to. That is why I'm making good communication with him, and if he wants me to be a second guard, I will."



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