Basketball / B. League

Jets star Yuki Togashi named B. League MVP

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The Chiba Jets Funabashi’s diminutive star guard Yuki Togashi just won the biggest individual accolade of his basketball career.

The 25-year-old Togashi was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2018-19 season at the B. League Award Show at the Roppongi Hills Arena on Wednesday night.

As the leader of the Jets, Togashi guided the East Division club to the league’s best record at 52-8. He averaged 14.0 points (fourth-best among Japanese players) and 5.5 assists (third-highest overall) while also registering the sixth-best 3-point shooting percentage at 37.7 this past season.

“The MVP is the best award you can get individually,” said Togashi, whose Jets came up short in the league title game for the second consecutive year on Saturday, losing to the Alvark Tokyo for the second straight season. “But, although this is an individual title, you get it when you’re on a winning team.

“So I’ve received this MVP as a representative of a group of people, including my teammates and the staff. I couldn’t have won it by myself. Especially this year, it wasn’t like I stood out on our team, someone always stepped up and we racked up 52 wins. So I would like to thank all my teammates.”

Togashi earned the award by garnering the most votes from among the Best Five team.

Scoring champ Davante Gardner of the Niigata Albirex BB, Alvark shooting guard Daiki Tanaka, SeaHorses Mikawa sharpshooting guard/forward Kosuke Kanamaru and Tochigi Brex guard Yusuke Endo were the other players who made the squad.

The Best Five team was selected based on votes from media, players and coaches. Togashi accumulated 251 votes. Gardner, the runner-up, had 215. Endo came in third with 167.

Kawasaki Brave Thunders center Nick Fazekas and Tochigi’s Makoto Hiejima, then of the SeaHorses, earned MVP honors for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns, respectively.

Togashi, Tanaka and Kanamaru were named to the all-league team for the third straight year, while Gardner and Endo were chosen for the first time.

Endo also collected his second defensive player of the year award. The 29-year-old, who started his professional career with the TGI D-Rise, the Brex’s development team, also won two years ago.

“I said when I won this award in the first year that hopefully there would be more players that don’t like me. But winning it again, I think there will be even more of those who don’t like me and it makes me happy,” Endo joked.

The award for the best sixth man went to Alvark’s athletic forward Yudai Baba, who was named the top rookie last year.

The SeaHorses’ 20-year-old guard Yuta Okada was selected as the Rookie of the Year. He joined the Aichi Prefecture-based club during the season and averaged 10.3 points.

Alvark’s Luka Pavicevic was chosen as the Coach of the Year, which is automatically given to the head coach from the championship-winning team.

It’s an honor to receive this award,” Pavicevic said. “I would like to thank, first, my players. Thank you for trusting me and letting me coach. It was a very demanding, long season and your dedication, motivation and inspiration never failed. It was the strongest in the finals.”

Meanwhile, the Japanese men’s national team, which clinched a spot in this summer’s FIBA World Cup, was given the “Break the Border” award. With the accomplishment, the Akatsuki Five was granted the host country spot for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Other notable award recipients were: Kei Igarashi and Shinsuke Kashiwagi, both of the Albirex BB (most impressive player award); SeaHorses (No. 1 hospitality club award); and Alvark (best social media award).