All-around star Parker joins Wakayama Trians

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

High-scoring forward Michael Parker, a bj-league star for six seasons, has reunited with ex-Shimane Susanoo Magic bench boss Zeljko Pavlicevic, the new Wakayama Trians head coach.

Wakayama, previously called the Panasonic Trians during the team’s JBL days, has joined the National Basketball League, the JBL’s 12-team successor, for the 2013-14 season.

The Trians made the blockbuster announcement, which was expected for many weeks, on Friday. The 31-year-old Parker starred for Shimane for the last two seasons, helping the team reach the playoffs twice. He played four seasons for the Rizing Fukuoka.

Parker, an Evergreen State (Washington) product, has amassed a slew of top honors since he made his bj-league debut in January 2008 for the Rizing. He led the league in steals five times (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2012-13) and scoring four times (2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12). He was the All-Star MVP twice, in 2008-09 and 2012-13, and earned Best Five (all-league) selections in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
For Parker, having the opportunity to continue his player-coach relationship with Pavlicevic played a big part in his decision to leave Shimane.

“It is always good to have a coach who believes in you and has confidence in you,” Parker told The Japan Times on Friday evening, “and I know Coach Z has both of those for me.”

For an ultra-competitive player — Parker consistently ranked among the bj-league’s most energetic, hard-working guys — a change of scenery came about for a couple of reasons.

Or as he put it, “Well, I feel like it was a combination of everything. I always liked the idea of moving to the JBL/NBL, but never got a chance. Plus, I really wasn’t too fond of the (old) one-import rule.”

This season, the NBL will have an alternating import quota rule: two imports for the first and third quarters and one allowed for the second and fourth.

“Then this year my coach moves to this league and they changed the rule,” Parker added. “Of course the money is on a different scale, which is great. Here we have our own gym and our own weight room.

“I loved being in Shimane and there is one of the best situations in the bj-league, but there is a limit to what they can do. Off the bat, I get a two-year deal through the (NBL), so that secures a nice future for me. So all in all, I felt like all the cards lined up perfectly for me to make the move and I am excited to see what I can do here.”

The bj-league has used the hugely unpopular synthetic courts (SportCourt) for the majority of its games since the league’s inception in 2005. All NBL games will be contested on wood courts, which is what the JBL did.

That, too, is another incentive for Parker.

“Wood is what basketball was made for, not slippery plastic,” he stated bluntly.

Pavlicevic believes Parker will remain a vital player for him. The only difference is he will now be wearing a Wakayama jersey instead of a Shimane uniform.

“He is one of the key players,” Pavlicevic told The Japan Times on Friday. “His attitude in practices and games is important.”

The sideline supervisor described Parker as an “all-around player,” citing his baskets, rebounds and steals as key contributions.

Veteran guard/forward Takuya Kawamura also joined the Trians this week. He was an elite performer in the JBL for several years, most notably with the Link Tochigi Brex from 2008-13, and racked up four scoring titles.

Chiba Jets update: Alan Wiggins Jr. has finalized a deal to play for the Chiba Jets, the NBL club announced on Friday.

The 28-year-old Wiggins played last season for Dnipro Azot in the Ukranian League. In 24 games, the 206-cm forward, a native of California, had team-high totals in minutes (33.3), points (14.5) and rebounds (8.0). The club went 15-24, finishing 11th out of 14 teams in Ukraine’s top division.
Wiggins’ father, Alan, was a speedy ballplayer for the San Diego Padres (1981-85) and Baltimore Orioles (1985-87). During San Diego’s 1984 National League pennant-winning season, the elder Wiggins stole 70 bases and scored 106 runs, and batted .364 in the ’84 World Series against the Detroit Tigers. He played all three outfield positions, first base, second base and designated hitter during his MLB career. In 1991, he died at age 32 after battling drug problems and contracting AIDS.

Alan Wiggins Jr. attended the University of San Francisco. He made a big jump in productivity as a junior, averaging 14.1 points in 28 games in 2005-06 after contributing 5.8 ppg the previous season. As a college senior, Wiggins scored 14.3 ppg.

In addition to playing in the Ukraine last season, Wiggins has suited up for pro teams in France, Romania, China, Lebanon, South Korea, Belgium and the relaunched ABA.

His younger sister, Candice Wiggins, is a starting guard for the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock. She was the No.3 overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.