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Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012

Ex-MVP White blasts bj-league, plans to sue Oita


Staff writer

Former Oita HeatDevils star Wendell White met with team officials on Tuesday and repeated his demands that the team honor his expired contract 14 days after his salary was due.

After receiving approximately only 20 percent of his November salary last month — the team said it couldn't afford to pay him what he was owed — White played his final game for Oita on Nov. 18. He and his agent are now aggressively shopping his services to other bj-league teams.

But at the same time, the former UNLV star remains angry about the way the team is treating him, describing it as insulting and unethical. He said he plans to pursue legal action against the team while also issuing a formal complaint with FIBA, basketball's world governing body.

His former teammates — Cyrus Tate, Taj Finger and Matt Lottich — have all parted ways with the team, too. None of the four imports were offered a new contract by the re-launched and cash-strapped HeatDevils, now under new management, and they didn't play last weekend as Oita, now 9-7, lost 100-68 and 123-50 against the visiting Ryukyu Golden Kings.

All four players had scheduled meetings with the team on Tuesday, while plans were under way for them to seek legal counsel as well.

While meeting with the league-appointed new team boss Tatsuya Abe, a member of the league's board of directors, on Tuesday, White said the latter "laughed at him" when he asked to be paid in full. The team's old president, Tomohiro Hashimoto, meanwhile, in a separate meeting gave White 2 percent to 3 percent of his salary, and said the team cannot give him anymore, according to White.

"To be honest with you, I've never been in a situation like this before," White, the bj-league's 2009-10 regular-season MVP while leading Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix to a championship, said by phone from Beppu, Oita Prefecture, characterizing it as the worst job-related thing he's ever dealt with. "And I never want to have this happen again..."

The 198-cm White, who averaged 16.8 points and 13.3 rebounds in 12 games with the HeatDevils, plans to be in Oita through the end of the week.

"I'm frustrated," he said, reflecting on the treatment he received from the team and the bj-league. "The sad thing about the situation is the way they went about it."

Even while meeting with team officials, White said he felt he was treated with disrespect.

Team officials "looked at you like, 'Why are you asking?' " White noted.

He said he understands the team's financial problems, but said no sincere attempt was made by the team or the bj-league to make a reasonable offer to him.

"I'm upset. We had a great team that could've possibly won a championship, a great team that got broken up," White said.

In a news conference on Tuesday in Oita, where Abe, commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi and Oita coach Yukinori Suzuki were present, it was formally announced that the league would take over day-to-day operations of the HeatDevils. The status of the team beyond this season has not been determined, the league stated in a news release.

The HeatDevils travel to play the Takamatsu Five Arrows, who are 4-10, this weekend.
Oita's Japanese players face major pay cuts — around 70 percent for the rest of the season, sources said Tuesday.

In related news, a league source said Tate, a University of Iowa product, is en route to the Philippines to resume his career there. But he said otherwise on Tuesday evening.

"I'm just gonna go home first and figure out my next (move)," Tate told The Japan Times. "This was like a huge slap in the face to me. Guys in the (Oita) office look at you with the sad face and expect you to feel sorry for them and then they go behind your back and do everything to save their own ass. All I know is that I will be keeping my eye on this so-called Oita Inc. company that has no money and isn't bankrupt yet..."

***

The Akita Northern Happinets, meanwhile, have signed forward Anthony Mason Jr., son of the longtime NBA forward who played for the New York Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals. The 201-cm forward will fill a roster spot vacated by another son of a former NBA player, T.J. Cummings, Terry's offspring. Cummings was released on Monday.

Mason attended St. John's University in New York, where 2010-11 bj-league regular-season MVP Justin Burrell, who starred for the Yokohama B-Corsairs last season, also played before turning pro. The 25-year-old Mason has played in the NBA Development League, but also coped with major foot and shoulder injuries in recent years.

A league insider said Cummings is currently in South Korea trying out for a pro team. He played 12 games for the Happinets and averaged 19.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. In his final game with Akita, Cummings scored a season-high 29 points on Nov. 25 against the Chiba Jets. A day earlier, he had 28.

Cummings shot 41.4 percent from inside the 3-point arc (94-for-227).

Last season, the UCLA product averaged 21.1 points for Oita.

The Happinets are 10-4 and occupy first place in the 11-team Eastern Conference.



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