Since the start of the 2006-07 bj-league season, this publication has awarded Player of the Month honors to one player for his offensive contributions and to another for his defensive accomplishments.
For December, one man deserves both accolades.
Mickey Marshall of the Osaka Evessa is the double winner, the first time this has occurred.
Marshall, coached by the legendary Bobby Knight (Division I’s all-time winningest coach) during his collegiate days at Texas Tech University, played an extraordinary role in every aspect of his team’s six games in the month.
If those six games collectively had been a movie or a play, Marshall would’ve been the lead actor and the director.
He averaged 39.7 minutes per game (bj-league teams play 40), he scored 24.8 points per game, and he never stopped hustling.
His month began with a two-steal game on Dec. 1. His next five outings showed this stat line for steals: two, one, five, four and three.
To be a deft theft artist, it takes more than just great athleticism; anticipation and desire are key ingredients in creating takeaways, too.
Marshall possesses all those qualities. He is also a fierce finisher, as evidenced by his 14 December dunks.
He finished the month with five blocked shots.
In addition, the small forward is no slouch in the rebounding department. He can control the glass with the same ease that a Parisian chef prepares award-winning croissants.
Marshall collected eight or more rebounds in each of his team’s six games, including three games of 11 or more. On the offensive glass, his 31 boards gave his team numerous second- and third-scoring chances.
And if one Marshall statistic seems low in one game, he’ll boost the number in the next.
Exhibit A: After consecutive zero-assist efforts on Dec. 1 and 2 (two Evessa losses), Marshall picked up the slack in the passing game with four-, seven-, six- and five-assist efforts over the next four games, all wins, coincidentally, for his team.
For Marshall, regular visits to the free-throw line are another chief characteristic of his smooth, all-around game.
Example: He was 9-of-9 on Dec. 8 in a 12-point win over the Ryukyu Golden Kings. A day later, he made 10 of 11 foul shots, and his team won by 15.
Marshall, by the way, was not selected to appear in the 2007-08 bj-league All-Star Game (not as a starter, not as a reserve).
As puzzling as that may be, it helps to remember this: Great players are often overlooked by fans and coaches when they select All-Star teams.
Marshall’s All-Star “showcase” consisted of six regular-season December games, and there are 30 games until the playoffs for Marshall to remind everyone that he is capable of putting up All-Star numbers in every game — and usually does just that.
Which is a big reason why his team is in first place in the Western Conference.