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Friday, Feb. 5, 2010

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Evessa bring in Klotz for more bulk upfront


Staff writer

A professional sports team can never be depicted as a "finished product" unless it finishes a season with an undefeated record.

That's why the Osaka Evessa (12-14), sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference, added a big man over the All-Streak break. In other words, the team identified a weakness and took steps to shore up its frontline.

Veteran center Jason Klotz, a University of Texas product, has signed a contract to play for the team in the season's second half.

The 207-cm Klotz played for the Orlando Magic's summer league team in 2005. His professional career has included brief stops in Turkey, Holland and China, as well as stints in the USBL and NBA Development League.

Now, the 28-year-old is ready to make his mark in the bj-league.

"I am very excited about the prospect of joining the Osaka Evessa," Klotz said in a statement released by the team." I am well-acquainted with (point guard) Nile Murry as a player and he has told me a lot of great things about the club. I researched the other teams and players and realize that it is a talented league with several players I have played against previously in other countries and some at college.

"The team is full of talent and I hope that I can bring a needed dimension inside and bring more success as the Evessa prepare to make a strong push into the playoffs."

Klotz's first test will come this weekend on the road against the Shiga Lakestars (15-15), the only team with 30 games in the books already.

Other teams have made recent moves as well. This week, the Ryukyu Golden Kings signed center Kevin Steenberge, a member of the club during the team's first season (2007-08) who was released by the Toyama Grouses earlier this season.

Steenberge, known for his leaping ability and presence around the basket, gives the Golden Kings additional depth in the frontcourt while All-Star Jeff Newton recovers from a shoulder injury.

The Golden Kings also signed guard Masashi Obuchi, a former Senshu University player. The 26-year-old has previously played for the JBL's Mitsubishi Electric squad.

The ever-changing Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, whose roster moves keep even the most avid fans confused, added guard Wayne Arnold, a former Tennessee State player to the mix. Arnold began his pro career in Iceland.

Ex-Rera Kamuy Hokkaido guard Takuro Ito, who played college ball at Takushoku University, is the newest Japanese athlete on coach Kazuo Nakamura's first-place team.

Weekend schedule: The other Saturday-Sunday series include Toyama (10-14) vs. Kyoto Hannaryz (11-15), Saitama Broncos (10-14) vs. Niigata Albirex BB (13-13), Oita HeatDevils (12-16) vs. Hamamatsu (21-5) and Ryukyu (19-9) vs. Rizing Fukuoka (18-10).

The Tokyo Apache (7-17) and Sendai 89ers (16-10) return to competition on Monday and Tuesday at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Playoff dates announced: The conference semifinal series, pitting the first and fourth seeds and the second and third seeds, have been set for May 15-16. Following the same format as last year, teams will face off on back-to-back days at the top two seeds' home venue. If each team wins one game, they will square off for a 10-minute 'tiebreaker' mini-game (or an extra quarter) to decide which team moves on to the Final Four.

Ariake Colosseum, the Apache's old home, will play host to the conference finals on May 22. A day later, the Eastern and Western Conference playoff champions will square off in the final. The conference final runners-up will meet in the third-place game.

Player recommendations: Moments after his 22-point, nine-rebound, seven-steal, five-assist, three-dunk effort in the 2009-10 All-Star Game on Sunday in Rifu, Miyagi, Prefecture, Phoenix guard/forward Wendell White was asked to assume the role of league commissioner for a day and institute any change he would like to make.

Here are two of White's recommendations:

1. Get rid of the league's synthetic sport courts. He said the surface causes additional pain and strain on players' knees and other assorted body parts, implying that every player would prefer to play on traditional hardwood courts.

2. Put more games on TV. He said he sees plenty of JBL games on TV, but the bj-league needs increased air time and better promotions.

Fun video: Manga University, which produced the bj-league All-Star trading cards set for the fourth straight season, asked players and head coaches to comment on the 2009-10 cards during last weekend's festivities in Sendai.

The 4-minute, 14-second video, featuring cheerful, impromptu critics, can be seen online.

Here's the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2nudG-9SMw



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