Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Chiba's Michael Parker continues to improve potent offensive game in latter stages of stellar career

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Michael Parker’s on-court excellence is a key reason the Chiba Jets Funabashi own the B. League’s best record (40-7).

When a player dominates and the paint, swatting shots, grabbing rebounds, intercepting passes in bunches, he helps set the tone for his team.

Parker’s contributions to Japan pro basketball teams for more than a decade have been chronicled in The Japan Times on numerous occasions since he joined the Rizing Fukuoka in the 2007-08 bj-league season.

But in recent games Parker has made baskets at a remarkable rate — even more so than usual. It only enhances his growing legend.

The dynamic forward, who played college ball at Evergreen (Washington) State, has converted 42 of 52 attempts (80.7 percent) from the floor in the last five games.

Parker, 37, is a master at scoring on putbacks and a layup artist, contorting his body in the lane to get the optimal angle for a shot. Quick hands, feet, eyes and instincts serve him well.

Teammates excel at getting Parker the ball on the fast break and in halfcourt sets in the post. A high lob to Parker near the hoop often results in two points, one element in a recipe for success. The Jets, meanwhile, have won seven straight.

A few weeks ago, Parker was interviewed on the Chiba Jets’ YouTube channel and asked about the team’s highlights to date. His answers revealed his focus: winning. He mentioned the team’s 33-7 record at the time and Emperor’s Cup three-peat, which was achieved in January.

Parker’s polished offensive skills have been on display throughout the season.

Exhibit A: Over the past five games, he scored at a remarkably high percentage on field-goal attempts (see above). A quick rundown: Against the Yokohama B-Corsairs on March 9 and 10, he made 13 of 15 and 8 of 12 shots from the floor, respectively, en route to 27 and 16 points. Against the Alvark Tokyo on March 13, he converted 5 of 7 shots in a 12-point outing. Last weekend, he was 7-for-7 in the series opener, scoring 15 points against the SeaHorses Mikawa on Saturday. A day later, he had 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting.

Jets assistant coach Calvin Oldham has witnessed Parker’s exploits from the bench since 2016. He recognizes that Parker has elevated his game to another this season.

“Since returning from the break we had in mid-February, Mike Parker has been on a tear that makes it hard to take him off the court,” Oldham told The Japan Times on Wednesday. “He scores with such efficiency and ease that it takes pressure off our offense. His timing on offensive rebounds and ability to score fast-break baskets is a big key to our overall success because none of that is scripted.”

Parker has started in 46 of the team’s 47 games this season. He’s scoring 16.2 points per game while converting 68.2 percent of his shots from the field. He’s also contributing 9.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.7 blocks.

Last season, he averaged 12.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks while making 64.1 percent of his shots.

Hand-eye coordination plays a pivotal role in Parker’s success.

Just ask Oldham.

“In our line of business we talk about a guy that has ‘good hands.’ Mike catches everything and has the ability to keep the ball ‘high’ around the basket, which allows a quick release,” observed Oldham, a former Virginia Tech University player. “Mike is having his best season as a Chiba Jet, which has a lot to do with us being the top team in the B. League right now.”At 6-foot-7 (200 cm) and 220 pounds (100 kg), Mike is often matched up against bigger imports, but his experience and never-quit mentality creates problems for opposing teams. Mike does not wow you with a lot of flash, but his grit and determination separates him from other players.

“There is no other player in the B. League quite like Mike.”

What’s more, according to a photo circulated on social media in early January, Parker was listed as the No. 1 career scorer among active players in Japan pro basketball. He had 11,208 points as of early January, followed by Mikawa’s J.R. Sakuragi with 10,385 and Hokkaido’s Takehiko Orimo with 9,992.

A look ahead

This weekend’s top-flight matchups are San-en vs. Mikawa, Shiga vs. Ryukyu, Chiba vs. Akita, Tokyo vs. Nagoya, Kawasaki vs. Hokkaido, Yokohama vs. Tochigi, Kyoto vs. Shibuya, Osaka vs. Niigata and Fukuoka vs. Toyama.

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