Berisford Codd Jr. ©
Individual awards like the Most Valuable Player are often linked to team success in organized sports, as they leagues tend to reward the best player on the best team. Most of these races would go down to the wire, as the upper echelon of the league normally maintains similar counting numbers. Last season’s MVP race went down to the wire between eventual winner George Williams and runner up Tahj Wells.
The 2018 MVP Watch has kept its fair share of jostling atop the rankings, but a clear favourite has now emerged after 8 weeks. American Nigel Jones has separated himself from the pack by putting together arguably the greatest scoring season in NEBL history. The Digicell Belize City Defenders have certainly been receiving fair return on every dollar spent to bring Jones to Belize… the Auditorium is full… the highlight reels are spectacular and the wins are adding up! It seems very likely that Jones can finish with 25 ppg and 10 reb, a feat that would negate every other case once the Defenders make the playoffs.
With that said, here’s a look at the latest version of the 2018 NEBL MVP Watch;
- Nigel Jones, Digicell Belize City Defenders
Season Stats (6 games): 24 ppg, 9.67 rpg, 1.5 blkpg, 54 fg%, 43 3p%
MVP Case: High Volume… High Efficiency… Two-Way Impact… American Nigel Jones has done it all for the Belize City Defenders since the opening tip of the 2018 PEPSI NEBL Season. Playing in an offense that only features one other double digit scorer, Darwin Leslie, Jones has been asked to and delivered superstar performances to carry the inconsistent Defenders roster. Jones put his all-around talent on display yet again, with a dominant performance against the rival Smart Belize Hurricanes. In front of a full house at the SCA Auditorium, Jones went off for 27 pts, 8 reb, and 4 ast on 75 fg% from the field. This was his fourth game scoring over 25 points, a feat that will likely leave him in the driver’s seat for the scoring title. Jones will have a chance to really flex his MVP muscle in next Friday’s showdown in Culture Capital, as the Defenders will try to avenge a tough fourth quarter loss to the Dream Ballers! EXPECT FIREWORKS IN GRIGA!
- Jihad Wright, San Pedro Tiger Sharks Season Stats (8 games): 14.13 ppg, 9.75 rpg, 4.38 apg, 2.88 spg, 1.13 blkpg
MVP Case: Wright had an off game with his scoring in last Saturday’s matchup against Verdes, but he was dynamic in every other facet of the game. Though scoring only 4 points, Wright stuffed the box sheet with 9 reb, 8 ast, 3 blk and 3 stl. It’s rare that we find players in the NEBL who stuff the stat sheet like Wright, so this may be the first time an MVP candidate will fail to lead his team in scoring. Even without a consistent outside jump shot (0 threes made all season), Wright’s pace in the open floor and ball handling will allow him to create enough easy buckets to maintain a healthy scoring average. The emergence of big man Martevuius Adams and an abundance of scoring options like Ashton Edwards, Raul Roches and Doug Valley will allow Wright to continue padding his stats and leading the Sharks to the best record in the league.
- Daniel Nolberto, Griga Dream Ballers Season Stats (7 Games): 17.14 ppg, 1.43 spg, 2.71 3pmg, 40 3p%
MVP Case: Averaging his career high in scoring and leading the Dream Ballers to the second best record in the league with his co-star Boogie Mitchell has Nolberto sitting squarely in the middle of the MVP Watch. His hot shooting has regressed to the mean over the over the past three games (shooting 39 fg%), but he has maintained his scoring clip by getting to the free throw line more often (6.33 attempts per game). The scoring burden Nolberto was forced to carry in the earlier part of the season has been eased with the rise of Boogie Mitchell’s output. To his credit, his defensive activity has picked up with the regression of his shooting stroke, as he has averaged 3 steals per game over the past three games. The scheduling gods are in Nolberto’s favour, as he will have his chance next week to avenge his poor performance against the Defenders. Another big performance and a win in front of his home fans may jump Nolberto up the rankings and put him as the local favourite to compete with Jones for the MVP Trophy.
- Darwin Leslie, Digicell Belize City Defenders
Season Stats (6 games): 18.83 ppg, 6.33 rpg, 48 fg%, 43 3p%
MVP Case: Puppy remains one of the league’s most dangerous scorers, with his shot selection has made up for any perceived loss in athletic ability. After running off a string 24+ point games, Puppy has fell back into his normal distributor mode to save himself for the playoff run. Puppy has averaged ten rebounds and 4 assists over the past two weeks, which has more than made up for his shooting struggles (8-25). His impact on the Defenders will be harder to quantify for the casual fan, but those who follow the local game closely know that the Defenders will march to the beat of Puppy’s drum. The uneven Defenders supporting cast will be looking to the steady veteran to power them through next week’s tough game in front of the raucous crowd in the Culture Capital. LEADERSHIP is often difficult to quantify but it must be RESPECTED!!!
On the Radar: Martevuius Adams (San Pedro Tiger Sharks), Edgar Mitchell (Griga Dream Ballers), Akeem Watters (Smart Belize Hurricanes), Luther Page (Belmopan Bandits)