Sendai 89ers center Chris Holm has become the bj-league’s chairman of the boards.

With 16.0 rebounds per game — or 1.8 more than two-time reigning champion Gordon James of the Takamatsu Five Arrows — Holm has been a big-time impact maker for the Eastern Conference squad in his first season in the fourth-year league.

The 24-year-old center is also averaging a steady 15.3 points per game while becoming an important figure in Sendai’s halfcourt offense.

But it’s Holm’s never-back-down mind-set in the paint that sets him apart from many post players.

Holm is The Japan Times’ Defensive Player of the Month.

The 212-cm, 120-kg performer collected an eye-popping 124 rebounds in eight January games, including 83 defensive boards. Consider this: That’s a lot of second-chance points he prevented by being the strongest, most determined man in the middle.

Holm’s forceful presence has helped Sendai post 14 victories in the season’s first 28 games.

Holm, who played collegiately for the University of Vermont Catamounts, began February with a game that could go down in the record books as his greatest contest as a pro — 25 points and 30 rebounds. Or could be a sign of things to come.

Ryukyu Golden Kings point guard Naoto Takushi, the league’s co-No. 2 man in steals (2.3 per game) along with Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix guard Masahiro Oguchi, also earned consideration for the award. Takushi had 21 steals in January and provided relentless energy for his first-place club in the backcourt.

All-Star point guard Michael Gardener of the Phoenix is The Japan Times’ Offensive Player of the Month. His 27.1 ppg in January helped his team go unbeaten in the seven games. Hamamatsu, in fact, has won 10 straight games and he’s played an instrumental role in his team’s success.

Gardener, a former Texas A&M player, leads the league in assists (7.8) and steals (2.6) and is in the running for the MVP trophy this season. Averaging 23.1 ppg, the league’s No. 3 scorer posted three consecutive games with 30 or more points in January. Call him the player that sets the tone for coach Kazuo Nakamura’s club, a club that has now tied the Tokyo Apache for the most wins in the Eastern Conference.

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