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Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009

Ito, UP Pilots off to strong start

The Japan Times

Senior guard Taishi Ito, who hails from Mie Prefecture, has helped the University of Portland (Ore.) men's basketball team earn a spot in The Associated Press Top 25 rankings for the first time since 1959.

The Pilots are 7-2 after an 86-82 loss to Portland State on Wednesday. The weekly rankings were released on Nov. 30.

The West Coast Conference school grabbed national attention after a 74-47 victory over UCLA and a 61-56 upset of then-No. 16 Minnesota in the 76 Classic last month.

"Being ranked in the top 25 at this point of the season is not necessarily a great accomplishment in and of itself," Pilots coach Eric Reveno said in a news release, "but it's a tremendous milestone for us as we progress as a program."

Last season, Ito served as co-captain and was selected as UP's Best Defensive Player in a vote by his teammates. In addition, he was the team leader in charges and played a valuable role coming off the bench in 31 games.

Ito, who attended Montrose Christian School in Maryland along with ex-Columbia University sharpshooter and current Rera Kamuy Hokkaido rookie Keijiro "K.J." Matsui, is averaging 12 minutes a game this season.

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