Draelon Burns played an integral role in the Ryukyu Golden Kings’ splendid 24-2 record in home games this season.
Exhibit A: In the first game of their final home series, Burns had 30 points (one shy of his season-high total), nine rebounds, four assists and three steals in an 87-77 win last Saturday over the rival Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix. He added 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal in an 80-68 victory a day later.
Burns is the Lawson/Ponta Weekly MVP, it was announced earlier this week.
Burns moved into the starting lineup five games ago. In his first 33 games in a Ryukyu uniform, he was used as a backup and thrived as a playmaker. He leads the team in scoring (16.8 points per game) and assists (136) and has made 44 steals.
The DePaul University alum has achieved extraordinary success in the bj-league. When he arrived in Japan, he helped transform a solid Yokohama B-Corsairs expansion squad into a Final Four team in its inaugural 2011-12 season. Last May, Burns came off the bench as Yokohama’s super sixth man and made countless big plays, including a game-winning shot in the closing seconds against the Niigata Albirex BB in the Eastern Conference final, en route to a bj-league title.
Ryukyu (40-8) has clinched the Western Conference’s top seed for the playoffs, giving Burns an opportunity to compete for his third consecutive trip to the Final Four at Ariake Colosseum in as many seasons.
Upcoming schedule: Sixteen teams are in action this weekend, with the following Saturday-Sunday series on the docket: Shinshu vs. Sendai, Gunma vs. Iwate, Saitama vs. Aomori, Tokyo vs. Yokohama, Hamamatsu vs. Nara, Osaka vs. Fukuoka, Shimane vs. Shiga and Takamatsu vs. Ryukyu.
By the numbers: Nara guard Joe Chapman leads all players in 3-pointers made (147). The next three? Akita’s Shigehiro Taguchi (116) and Shinshu’s Patrick Sanders and Aomori’s Gordon Klaiber (113 apiece). Tokyo’s Yuji Ide has drained 111 3s and Shiga’s Marshall Brown and Shimane’s Adrian Thomas both have made 108. Others with 100 or more: Sendai’s Fumiya Sato (106), Akita’s Yuki Togashi (105), Saitama’s John Humphrey 104), Oita’s Taishiro Shimizu (102) and Joho (100).
Taguchi and Togashi are the only teammates with 100 or more 3s.
Tyler update: Former Tokyo Apache post player Jeremy Tyler’s third NBA season ended on Wednesday, when the New York Knicks defeated the visiting Toronto Raptors 95-92. The 22-year-old native of San Diego had six points and one rebound in 24 minutes in the season finale.
Tyler averaged 3.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.5 blocks and 9.7 minutes in 41 games (all coming off the bench) for the Knicks. He had a season-high 17 points on Jan. 28 against the Boston Celtics.