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Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

BJ-LEAGUE

HeatDevils add three new imports

The Japan Times

Forward Wellington Smith, who starred on West Virginia's Big East Tournament champion and Final Four squad in the spring, has signed a contract with the Oita HeatDevils for the coming season under new head coach L.J. Hepp. The announcement was made on Tuesday.

The HeatDevils, coming off a 25-27 season, also signed former University of Minnesota forward Damian Johnson, who played three of his four collegiate seasons under Tubby Smith, and ex-South Carolina forward Rolando Howell.

The 201-cm Smith had team-high totals in points (12), assists (four) and blocks (two) in West Virginia's 78-57 loss to Duke in the NCAA semifinals on April 3. He also shared the team-high total in rebounds (five). A solid defender, Smith had 162 blocked shots in 140 college games. (Guard/forward Willie Veasley, who played for Butler in the NCAA title game against Duke, has joined the Niigata Albirex BB.)

Johnson, who tried out for the Miami Heat's summer league team, is No. 2 in steals, third in blocks and third in games on the Gophers' all-time list. "This is a chance to get to work against different competition on the next level," Johnson told the Daily Comet newspaper in Thibodaux, La., his hometown.

The 206-cm Howell has played professionally in Italy, Spain and Lebanon since wrapping up his college career in 2004. He averaged 9.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 102 games for the Gamecocks.

Standouts Ricky Woods and Mike Bell, who were both among the bj-league's top-10 scorers last season, have not signed new contracts with Oita, but steady guard Matt Lottich, a member of three Osaka Evessa title-winning teams, will be back.



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