Berisford Codd Jr. ©
American Luther Page of the Belmopan Bandits (1-2) bullied his way to securing the team’s first victory of the season against the highly touted Digicell Belize City Defenders (1-1). Page, a bruising 6-6 forward who played Division I college basketball at the Alabama State University, has quickly asserted himself as the primary weapon on offense and glass cleaner on defence for the Bandits. After three games, he now seems well positioned mentally to manage the physical battle that is Belizean basketball.
Coming off their first championship season, but suffering losses of key rotation players, the Bandits were desperate for Page to establish himself as an MVP candidate and carry them to the win column. While it by no means was a one man effort, Page’s calm demeanour blended with his relentless attacking style was the main ingredient in the dismantling of the hyped Defenders. Head Coach Bernie Tarr’s decision to shorten his rotation (four of five starters played 30 plus minutes) will allow Page to develop chemistry quickly with his new teammates and give the Bandits their best chance to make it back to the playoffs!
As the dominant performance from Page and the Bandits has pushed him into the MVP conversation, the balanced attack of the Dangriga Dream Ballers (3-0) might keep their gems from earning league wide individual acclaim. The Dream Ballers, who last season were largely dependent on the scoring duo of Tahj Wells and Dilmore Conorquie, are now paced by the impressive four headed monster of Brandon Flowers, Captain Edgar “Boogie” Mitchell, Daniel “Buddy” Nolberto and Belizean American Daniel Conorquie.
Buddy, who recently returned to the Dream Ballers from last season’s stint with the Cayo Western Ballaz, has fit comfortably in the line-up as both the team’s designated perimeter stopper and main floor spacer for the playmaking Mitchell and Conorquie. The defensive work he did last Friday in Dangriga against newly acquired American import Isiah Thomas (Verdes) lifted the Ballers to victory in the second half and energized the jam packed Russell Chiste Garcia Auditorium. Mitchell, the starting point guard on last season’s championship Bandits team, has returned home to lead the high powered Dream Ballers offense to an average of 85 points per game (3rd overall). After suffering a severe ankle injury in last week’s win against the Belmopan Bandits, Mitchell returned off the bench to score 16 points for the Ballers and generate great pace for the offense that resulted in a +24 for the Dream Ballers when he was on the floor.
Will the Dangriga Dream Ballers continue their balanced scoring or will an alpha dog emerge in this week’s marquee matchup against the San Pedro Tiger Sharks?!?!
The top four in the second edition of the 2018 NEBL MVP Watch:
- Ashton Edwards, San Pedro Tiger Sharks Season Stats (3 Games): 19.33 PPG, 44 3P%, 4.67 3PG, 1.67 SPG
His MVP Case: Edwards and the Tiger Sharks had the week off after competing in the first three weeks of the league. Though it would be easy to be a victim of the moment, Edwards’s consistent brilliance for San Pedro has not been matched by any player in the league thus far. His closest competitors who played from last week’s rankings, Digicell Belize City Defender Nigel Jones and Dangriga Dream Baller Brandon Flowers, both had subpar shooting performances against stiffer competition. Look for Edwards to maintain his deadeye shooting from deep in this Saturday’s heavy weight matchup in Dangriga. If he can win his matchup with Dream Ballers stopper Daniel Nolberto, the Tiger Sharks will push the Dream Ballers to the brink in front of their raucous home crowd and may come out at the top of the league standings.
- Luther Page, Belmopan Bandits
Season Stats (3 Games): 20 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2 SPG, 11.67 Free Throw Attempts per Game
His MVP Case: Page has improved weekly since getting off to a relatively slow start in his 2018 NEBL campaign against the Tiger Sharks. He broke out in a big way against the Defenders by dropping 29 points and 13 rebounds on 47% shooting from the field. Working as the “press breaker” for the Bandits, Page attacked the Defenders full court press throughout to get to the foul line an eye opening 21 times. This breakout performance has Page trending upward, as he was coming off a 16 points and 10 rebounds showing in a loss against the Dangriga Dream Ballers. Page’s presence on the 2018 NEBL Watch will largely depend on the Bandits season record, which Page will have every opportunity from Coach Tarr to influence. Expect Page to press on with his downhill attacking style against the reeling Orange Walk Running Rebels (0-3) this Friday at the UB Gym.
- Nigel Jones, DigiCell Belize City Defenders Season Stats (2 Games): 24 PPG, 10 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1 BPG His MVP Case: Jones turned out a solid performance against the Bandits but was clearly bothered by the heightened physicality compared to his opening game. The referees were letting them play last Friday at the SCA Auditorium, and Jones was unable to match the intensity of Luther Page and Faron Louriano. While Jones was outmatched by the dominance of Page and outshined by the brilliance of his veteran teammate Darwin “Puppy” Leslie, he still managed to put up 18 points, 7 rebounds, two steals and a block against the Bandits. He will remain a fan favourite throughout the competition if he continues throwing down highlight reel dunks in the open court. With just under 9 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, Jones picked up the loose ball caused by the Defenders pressure defense and went up and demolished Bandits Quinton Bowen at the rim with a mean poster! This week’s test against retooled Verdes Basketball will provide Jones an excellent opportunity to prove whether he has substance to match his style!
- Jihad Wright, San Pedro Tiger Sharks
Season Stats (3 Games): 14 PPG, 11.67 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.67 SPG, 1 BPG
His MVP Case: Wright’s versatility remains one of the key takeaways from the early season. With American big man Martevuius Adams discovering his shooting touch from midrange, Wright will have even more space to show off his motor and athleticism for NEBL fans countrywide. Wright’s assist numbers point to a highly skilled wing player who has yet to show off his full arsenal in the young season. His strong rebounding should allow Head Coach Rico Black to throughout the Tiger Sharks version of the small ball death line up: Jamal Kelly, Ashton Edwards, Douglas Valley, Raul Roches and Jihad Wright. Look for this line up to be featured against the rangy Dream Ballers.
On the Radar: Jamal Kelly (San Pedro Tiger Sharks), Akeem Watters (Smart Belize Hurricanes), Daniel Conorquie (Dangriga Dream Ballers), Brandon Flowers (Dangriga Dream Ballers)