As the bj-league’s rapid growth has infused new talent into the nation’s first pro basketball league, those players and coaches have made a big impact on the sport.
Case in point: This season’s Best Five team, selected by team and league officials, including players, features five first-time selections, it was announced Wednesday.
Rizing Fukuoka standout Kevin Palmer, who scored 42 points against Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix on Dec. 2, is an electrifying swingman who headlines this year’s Best Five squad. Yokohama B-Corsairs forward Justin Burrell, an 18.7 point-per-game performer and a rookie out of St. John’s in the rugged Big East Conference, joins Palmer in the frontcourt, along with Hamamatsu big man Atsuya Ota, who made 16 starts in 52 games. Ota averaged 5.7 ppg and grabbed in 52 games. Ota averaged 5.7 ppg and grabbed 265 rebounds, or nearly 500 fewer than Niigata big man Chris Holm. (Ota has received ample praise from coaches and players for his fundamental skills, but never been declared the league’s best center during hundreds of conversations this reporter has had with league sources.)
In the backcourt, Toyama Grouses guard Masashi Joho, the top Japanese scorer in the league (15.3 ppg), made the squad for the first time in his stellar, seven-year bj-league career. Hamamatsu floor leader Jermaine Dixon, a 17.9 ppg scorer and deft passer, completes the all-league team.
After guiding the expansion B-Corsairs to a 31-21 record, second only to the Phoenix in the Eastern Conference (37-15), and an eight-game winning streak to end the regular season, former NBA guard and Yokohama sideline supervisor Reggie Geary was named the 2011-12 Coach of the Year.
The Most Improved Player Award was issued to Shimane Susanoo Magic point guard Edward Yamamoto, whose assist total increased to 249 this season from 78 in 2010-11.
Niigata Albirex sharpshooter Shuhei Komatsu was chosen as the 6th Man Award winner. Komatsu logged 1,000 minutes and drained 93 3-pointers (38 percent).
The Commissioner Award, recognizing a solid player’s key contributions, went to Akita Northern Happinets forward Yuki Kikuchi. After seeing limited minutes last season, Kikuchi has emerged as a regular in Akita’s rotation, getting 1,154 minutes of court time, averaging 8.0 ppg and draining 114 3s.
League leaders: Shimane’s Michael Parker claimed the scoring crown for the fourth consecutive season (23.1 points per game). Fukuoka’s Palmer and Chiba’s Maurice Hargrow tied for second (21.6), Chiba’s Jamel Staten was fourth (21.2) and Oita’s T.J. Cummings rounded out the top five (21.1).
Saitama’s Kenny Satterfield earned the assist title (6.7 per game) for the second straight year. Oita’s Naoto Takushi was second (5.9), Sendai’s Takehiko Shimura finished third (5.3), Hamamatsu’s Jermaine Dixon was fourth (5.2) and Shimane’s Edward Yamamoto took fifth (4.8).
Niigata’s Chris Holm was the top rebounder (14.3) for the second time in three seasons. Fukuoka’s Gary Hamilton was second (11.4), Staten was third (11.0) and Toyama’s Devin Searcy and Kyoto’s Rick Rickert (both at 10.7) completed the top five.
For Holm, who averaged a league-record 15.6 boards while playing for the Sendai 89ers in 2008-09, grabbing even more rebounds is a priority.
“I pride myself on kind of getting a large number of rebounds. If I’ve got 14 rebounds, I want 15,” he said told reporters on Sunday in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, after the Albirex’s 95-54 win in the teams’ regular-season finale. “I got enough for us today to win. . .
“Luckily, it’s something I can always improve on, and hopefully next weekend I can get some rebounds that are going to help us win the playoffs.”
Shimane’s Jeral Davis swatted a league-best 3.8 blocks a game, while Sendai’s Rashaad Singleton placed runnerup (2.9) and Hamamatsu’s Lawrence Blackledge and Chiba’s Antoine Broxsie tied for third (2.5). Shinshu’s Tyler Hughes and Osaka’s Wayne Marshall shared the fifth spot (1.6).
Chiba’s Jamel Staten led all players in steals (2.8 per contest). Fukuoka’s Palmer was second (2.5), four-time winner Parker took third (2.4) and Saitama’s John “Helicopter” Humphrey and Miyazaki’s Dexter Lyons (2.0 apiece) rounded out the top five.
Ryukyu’s David Palmer sank 50 percent of his 3-point shots (79-for-158) to finish atop that category. The rest of the top five: Osaka’s Cohey Aoki (48.6 percent), Shinshu’s Derek Raivio (39.5), Kyoto’s Taizo Kawabe (39.4) and Niigata’s Yuichi Ikeda (39.3).
Six-time All-Star guard Aoki, long known for his extraordinary shooting skills, finished as the league’s best free-throw shooter (89.5 percent, or 137-for-153) for the fourth time, first in an Evessa uniform. Raivio placed second (87.4), Shiga’s Shinya Ogawa was third (85.0), Yokohama’s Masayuki Kabaya ranked fourth (84.4) and Palmer fifth (83.5).
Also, Shinshu’s Edward Morris converted 57.6 percent of his field-goal attempts to top the charts, and was first in dunks (1.8 per game). Parker logged a league-high 1,908 minutes.