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Ryukyu’s McHenry named MVP; Garrison top coach

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Three days after setting a league record for most regular-season wins (42), prestigious honors arrived for the defending champion Ryukyu Golden Kings.

On Wednesday, forward Anthony McHenry was named the 2012-13 MVP, adding to his trophy hardware from last season — the playoff MVP honor — and enhancing his status as one of the league’s all-time greats.

The Georgia Tech product, who routinely defends the top player on opposing teams and excels as the Golden Kings offensive catalyst, also headlines this season’s Best Five team, which was chosen by commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi, head coaches, a league selection committee and players, who couldn’t pick players on their own team.

Rising star Narito Namizato, a 23-year-old point guard and two-time All-Star also represents Ryukyu on the Best Five team, and Terrance Woodbury, team’s leading scorer (17.6 points per game), is the Sixth Man Award winner.

Ryukyu assistant coach Keith Richardson reacted to the team’s big news on Facebook.

“Congrats to you guys, but you could not have achieved what you did without your great supporting cast of the TEAM!” Richardson wrote in a post. “The hard work keeps going and the focus becomes greater.”

Yokohama B-Corsairs super sub Draelon Burns joins Namizato in the backcourt a season after being named the top reserve. Earning all-league honors despite coming off the bench speaks volumes about Burns’ willingness to take a less prominent role than many stars would accept.

Burns finished fourth in the league in scoring (20.4), fifth in assists (4.8) and tied for third in steals (2.0).

Namizato averaged 11.5 ppg and dished out 6.2 assists per game (second-highest average in the league), with 309 assists against 122 turnovers. The Okinawan standout’s rebounding ability (240 boards) often jump-started the team’s offense on the defensive end, with McHenry pushing the tempo, setting pristine picks and finding ways to score and creating scoring opportunities from virtually every spot on the floor.

McHenry recorded averages of 16.1 points and 2.0 steals, and a few rebounds shy of 10.0 per game, as well as more than 3.0 assists and just more than 1.0 blocks per contest.

In other words, he’s the complete package for the Golden Kings. He made a smooth transition from the four-season reign of Dai Otetani (2008-12, two titles) to new bench boss Koto Toyama. And with Jeff Newton out for more than a month with knee surgery, McHenry played an even bigger role inside as a rebounding force in March and April.

McHenry is the lone second-time Best Five selection — he was also chosen in 2010-11 — on this season’s all-league team.

Curiously enough, the Best Five frontcourt features two top-flight centers, Jeral Davis of the Shimane Susanoo Magic and Chris Holm of the Niigata Albirex BB.

The 216-cm Davis led the league in blocked shots (3.5 per game) for the third straight season and scored 14.1 ppg.

Holm finished atop the rebounding charts (14.5) for the third time and scored 11.3 ppg for the Eastern Conference regular-season champions. A quintessential anchor in the middle, Holm helped the Albirex win the conference crown for the first time.

Niigata went 36-16 this season, collecting eight more triumphs than 2011-12, Matt Garrison’s first campaign in charge.

Garrison is the Coach of the Year as chosen by the league’s selection committee. (Votes were not released to the media.)

The 39-year-old Garrison played for the Albirex and Takamatsu Five Arrows before retiring in 2009. For the second season in a row, an American earned the coaching accolade. Yokohama’s Reggie Geary received the honor last spring.

A popular forward in his playing days, Garrison shared his thoughts via Facebook, too.

“Congratulations to Albirex BB on a great regular season,,” Garrison wrote. “Congratulations to all the players and team staff for finishing first in the East. Thank you to ownership, CEO, GM and front office staff for all your hard work and commitment. A special thanks to all the boosters for your continued support and congrats on being named the best boosters. Let’s all keep pushing to become champions!”

Also Wednesday, Saitama Broncos guard Yuki Kitamuki, who scored a career-high 15.5 ppg, was named the Most Improvement Player award recipient.

Rookie Yuki Togashi, a 19-year-old point guard for the Akita Northern Happinets, won the Rookie of the Year award. Togashi made a major impact for the Tohoku-based club in 26 games, averaging 14.3 ppg and exciting the fans with his speedy, gutsy style of play. Togashi handed out 158 assists and had 61 turnovers, numbers that illustrate his impressive skills at a young age.