Basketball / B. League

Brave Thunders' Fazekas receives MVP accolade at festive award show

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Were the title game and the promotion/demotion contest the grand finale of the memorial inaugural season for the B. League?

Not really.

Even after all the games were over, the league did not let its fans look away from it with the B. League Award Show, which was splendidly held at a state-of-an-art event hall in Tokyo Midtown’s Roppongi district on Tuesday night.

The night opened with a ring ceremony to the Tochigi Brex, who became the first-ever B. League champions as they edged the Kawasaki Brave Thunders 85-79 in Saturday’s title game at Yoyogi National Gymnasium (Sunday’s promotion/demotion game between the Hiroshima Dragonflies and Yokohama B-Corsairs was the last official game of the year).

“The championship was our goal at the beginning of the season and we were able to reach the goal,” superstar guard Yuta Tabuse said. “But we should not be conceited with the title and should realize that we need to get the league more excited so more people will come (to the games) and we will provide dreams to the kids.”

Scoring champion Nick Fazekas received the Most Valuable Player award after collecting the most ballots in the Best Five voting.

Fazekas, a 31-year-old former NBA player, had won the same accolade in the days of the NBL (which eventually merged with the bj-league to form the B. League). But with the gorgeous, electrifying setup and with far more media reporters at the award show, he seemed to be even more pleased.

“Compared to the JBL, NBL days, this is so much bigger and better,” Fazekas said. “As far as the media exposure, now that every team is part of the B. League, it feels like this is the ultimate MVP. You are recognized as the best player in this country at this point. So this is definitely something to be very proud of and definitely something I’m very honored to be.”

The other four members of the Best Five team are Yuki Togashi of the Chiba Jets, Daiki Tanaka of the Alvark Tokyo, and Kosuke Kanamaru and Makoto Hiejima, both of the SeaHorses Mikawa.

“I’m very honored to have been selected in the first year of the B. League,” said Togashi, who is on the national team for the June 2-7 East Asia Championship in Nagano. “I would like to channel it into my motivation for my play for the national team and all that.”

Chiba’s versatile forward Tyler Stone was chosen as the Sixth Man of the Year, while Sunrockers Shibuya point guard Leo Vendrame was selected as the Rookie of the Year.

“Before I became a professional player, I didn’t think that I would be standing on a stage like this, so I’m really moved right now,” said Vendrame, who averaged 8.4 points and 2.7 assists for the Central Division club in the 2016-17 campaign.

Tochigi youngster Yusuke Endo was named the best defender.

“I know there’s a lot of players that don’t like me to guard them,” Endo said. “But hopefully, there’ll be even more players like that going forward.”

Brex coach Tom Wisman earned the Coach of the Year award. The honor is given to the bench boss who guides his team to the title.

In addition to traditional accolades, the league had other unusual, entertaining awards as well.

The most handsome man award was given to Naoki Uto, the funniest guy award was presented to Kenji Hilke and the coolest and sexiest man award was provided to Masashi Joho. All the three play for the Toyama Grouses.

The Ryukyu Golden Kings were chosen as the “Best Hospitality” club of the year, based on research by a third-party company.