/

Captain Kabaya picks up MVP award

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Masayuki Kabaya, the Yokohama B-Corsairs captain, knocked down five 3-pointers — all five attempts — in a mesmerizing 35-point performance that had fans from both teams dropping their jaws in astonishment.

Kabaya was named the playoff MVP after helping Yokohama capture its first championship, a 101-90 triumph over the Rizing Fukuoka on Sunday at Ariake Colosseum.

“I’m extremely happy. For those who play this game it’s the ultimate goal to win a championship,” said Kabaya, a Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, native. “And you are lucky to win just one usually. So I’m so happy and this is a great team.”

Kabaya is the second Japanese to be named playoff MVP. Masahiro Oguchi, the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix standout, earned the award in the 2009-10 season.

Kabaya averaged 13.3 points per game during the regular season. The 30-year-old is dedicated to improve his craft every day in practice, several team members said after the team, including veteran big man Shawn Malloy.

On Kabaya’s lights-out shooting in the season finale, Malloy said, “This is something that we see every day. . . . When he gets going, no one can stop him.”

As everyone in the arena saw, Kabaya was in a rhythm from the get-go.

He admitted playing a tough, aggressive game was the best approach against a strong Rizing squad.

“We thought that the first contact would be important, how good of a jab we could strike first,” said Kabaya, who scored Yokohama’s first eight points in the first quarter. “It did pay off and I was able to play pretty comfortably. I felt like I was in the zone.”

After falling to the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix in the Eastern Conference final last season, Kabaya declared, “That humiliation was everything that boosted us to get here. You can’t pay back for the humiliation unless you come back here and win. So as we’ve come all the way to get here and earned this, I’m so happy.”

Not named to the All-Star team during his two seasons in Yokohama, Kabaya has garnered the utmost respect from his coach.

“First and foremost, we’ve been saying this for a very long time. We feel he’s one of, if not the strongest guard in the league,” Yokohama coach Reggie Geary said after the game.

“He is a tremendous player who goes under the radar in the basketball culture and within the press in Japan,” added Geary.

“He had tremendous fight and he played with all his heart tonight,” the coach said.

Sixth man Draleon Burns, who teams up with Kabaya in the backcourt, said, “The MVP award is very deserving.”

Kabaya dropped 39 points on the Saitama Broncos in the final week of the regular season, a reminder of his scoring ability. That offensive outburst in Saitama, Geary noted, was the top total in league history for Japanese players.

Kabaya’s father died last summer. His father’s memory sustains him, he admitted after the game.

“He really loved the game and would come to my games. He would always tell me to play with focus. (After his death) a piece of paper came out of his wallet and it was a memo about basketball,” Kabaya said. “So I feel like he watched me play and gave me something special today.”