Cafman Says - Jacob Holmen for MVP
As we have now pass the mid way point of the season and the All Star game quickly approaches, we can see that the ladder is shaping up, for the most part, as expected.
With the top 6 teams only separated by 1 win, the race for first place remains a tight contest.
And much of the same can be said in the race for season MVP.
In a 3-2-1 voting system, one individual player can receive a maximum of 9 votes per game. These votes come from the two opposing head coaches, and a combined count from the referees. Then of course, the final tally is counted, and recounted, and at the end of the season the winner is announced.
Many factors, both good and bad, play into who gets the votes. Wins and loses for example don’t play as big of a role in voting as one would expect, which was evident with Ray Turner winning the award last season. On a team that he would dominate statistically, he would gather a good portion of the voting regardless on which team won. As long as you put up 30 and 10, you should look to get at least get 1 vote.
Then on the flip side someone like Trian Iliadis, who I believe is one of the best players in the league, would miss out on votes because of the team he is in. There is a lot of talent in Joondalup, and they go deep into their roster. So even with Trian’s consistent performance, one night he may end up getting overshadowed by a fellow teammate. And this player could vary from week to week. Effectively they end up ‘stealing votes’ off each other. Similar case can be said for Gavin Field in Cockburn.
As it currently stands, Tre Nichols and Daniel Alexander led the league (average) in scoring. Chudier Pal has improved greatly from his numbers in 2014 to lead the league in rebounding and second in blocks. While Cockburn duo Marcus Goode and Najee Lane lead the defensive categories in blocks and steals respectively.
Kenny Manigault is second in steals and first in assists, a statistic usually dominated by current second place earner Joel Wagner.
Along with the above-mentioned names, you can also throw the likes of Cooper Land, Jay Bowie and Matthew Adekponya into the mix for MVP candidates.
And while they are all worthy candidates, my money for MVP at this stage of the season is on the Giants star forward, Jacob Holmen.
He has put together some dominant numbers on a team not full of superstars, though who have still managed to register a half dozen wins. And most importantly he hasn’t missed any games.
Holmen grew up in a small town in Texas, two hours away from Dallas. The former North Texas Mean Green credits his parents for giving him the support early on in pursing his dreams.
“My dad would drive me to practice twice a week after school and I would play tournaments in Dallas on the weekend just to play against some better competition.” Holmen continues, “As I got older, I'd even stay with my uncle in Houston during the summer just to play against kids from the bigger cities. I've always had a great support system around me, and you never really appreciate it at the time, but now that I'm older and able to look back and reflect. I wouldn't be where I am today without them.”
“I'd also like to thank my fiancée, because I almost didn't come back to the SBL this year without her. It's tough to leave your spouse, someone you love and care about at home, but she's always been accepting of me chasing my dream and wouldn't want me to regret anything in the future. She knows how much I love her and how much I love the game, so I'm thankful that she lets me travel the world while I've still got some spring in these legs.”
With the loss of Jay Bowie and Mathiang Muo from the lineup last season, and injuries this year to Lordan Franich, Holmen had to step up. And he did so by improving of his numbers, most importantly on his scoring and rebounding. In 2015 he averaged 24.3 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. This year he has increased those numbers to 27.0 points (3rd) and 13.4 rebounds (3rd) per game. Additionally, he has also increased his blocked shots while fouling less. Which is impressive from a player who generally plays 40 minutes or more.
While he remains a dominant post and mid range player, he has also improved his range. Holmen has already surpassed his 2015 total of 57 attempts from 3-point range, to 68 attempts this year, while shooting at 32.4%.
On asked what is the biggest difference on his individual performance from last season, Holmen said “(My) general knowledge of the game. I understand the league and my opponents a lot better and I'm able to see how I need to impact the game. Whether it's crashing the glass, being more aggressive on the offensive end, or getting my teammates involved. This year I just see the game a bit differently and it's allowed me to play at a high level.”
Head Coach Michael Haney knows first hand the impact Jacob Holmen has made on this team. He gave Holmen the responsibility of team captain for 2016 knowing full well that he could shoulder the load of being a leader both on and off the court.
“As a club we knew from the previous season what leader Jacob was going to be for us.” Coach Haney continues, ”We loved his energy and his ability to keep others upbeat and working hard. It's not normal for imports to be captains especially only after playing 1 season, but Jacob as a special gift and we felt he was worthy to lead this team in 2016.”
But does that add additional pressure?
Holmen replied with, “As the captain of the team I do feel more pressure to perform. As an import I feel the pressure to perform. Basketball is a performance-based business and after one year in the league I understand that. I try and approach every practice and every game as if there is somebody else lined up ready to take my spot.”
Coach Haney continues with, “It's obvious what he brings on the court. He is a gifted athlete who can do a little bit of everything on the court. Off the court he keep everyone loose and having fun. He has been a blessing to have around.”
And while winning doesn’t greatly influence the MVP voting as much as it should, it definitely helps. After a strong start to the season, they currently find themselves outside the top 8 after going on a 5 game losing streak.
“I'd say our team's biggest hurdle this year has been ourselves. We've got 3 new starters and a heap of young guys. We've struggled to find chemistry at times and have yet to play a complete 48-minute game. Mental lapses have been the difference between us winning and losing some close games this year.”
Jacob Holmen has recorded 13 double-double performances from 15 outings. When the Giants win, Holmen averages 31.5 points and 15.8 rebounds per game. And even in a loss he manages to record an average of 23.7 points and 11.7 rebounds, which one would think he would receive a vote or two for.
If Holmen continues with this form he’ll continue to make a case as to why he should be named the league MVP.
Article by Adam Forde
Photo by Mick Cronin