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Rayson reigns as MVP as Five prepare to host Edge

Sudbury Star

Bland, Stutz also receive major awards

Braylon Rayson, right, of the Sudbury Five, drives to the basket against Russell Byrd, of the Island Storm, during basketball action at the Sudbury Community Arena in Sudbury, Ont. on Friday December 21, 2018. John Lappa/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

A breakout season for Sudbury Five guard Braylon Rayson was recognized Tuesday with the National Basketball League of Canada’s top individual honour.

The 24-year-old Dallas, Tex. native and second-year pro was named the NBLC’s most valuable player, as voted by coaches across the league, becoming the third Sudbury player to win a major award in 2018-19.

Guard Jaylen Bland was named NBLC Newcomer of the Year on Saturday, while Five head coach and general manager Logan Stutz was honoured Monday as Ian Fowler Executive of the Year.

“From the start of the year right to the end, Braylon has been the league’s MVP,” Stutz, a former MVP himself, said in a release. “It’s special to see Braylon succeed, especially after spending last season together in Windsor. He worked extremely hard this off-season and has kept that drive with him all year, establishing himself as one of the best players in the league.”

Rayson’s MVP award won’t surprise Five fans, who have greeted the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder with chants of “M-V-P, M-V-P,” during recent contests.

The numbers certainly back them up.

Rayson led the NBLC in scoring this season with 25.1 points per game, and total points, with 979. He also led the league in three-point scoring and was second only to Bland in three-pointers per game, with 3.8, and was also second in field goals per game, with 8.4.

The Central Michigan University alumnus, who remains that school’s career three-point-scoring leader, also set a single-season record in the NBLC for three-pointers in a season, with 149. He led the league in total field goals scored, as well, with 328.

Rayson owns the franchise record for points in a single contest, after pouring in 49 against the Windsor Express on Feb. 28.

Rayson recently signed a summer contract with a professional team in China, which he’ll join at the end of the NBLC season. At the moment, however, he and his teammates are in the midst of a playoff run. They host the St. John’s Edge in Game 3 of their best-of-five quarter-final series on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.

The series is tied 1-1, following a Sudbury win in Game 1 and a St. John’s victory in Game 2.

Game 4, also in Sudbury, will be played Friday at 7:05 p.m. Game 5, if necessary, will be played April 14 in St. John’s.

NBLC quarter-finals are best of five, while semifinals and finals are best of seven games.

This past weekend, Bland was named NBLC Newcomer of the Year, an honour bestowed on a player who is new to the league, but has professional experience.

A 6-foot-3 native of Saginaw, Mich. and an NBA G-League veteran, Bland made an immediate splash in the league last November by averaging 33.5 points and going 16 for 32 from long range in two wins, earning him Player of the Week honours.

“Jaylen is the best shooter I have ever seen,” Stutz said. “It’s really something special if you get the chance to see it, he also brings more then that to the table, he’s coachable he works hard and rebounds well for his position. I am so proud that he was able to come to this league and accomplish what he has accomplished for himself and Sudbury.”

Acquisitions such as Bland and Rayson, as well as trade-deadline pickup Maurice Jones Sr., helped make Stutz’s case for his own award, the Ian Fowler.

One of only three former NBL Canada players to become a head coach, Stutz was the 2016 NBL Canada scoring leader and MVP, and finished a three-year career with both the Niagara River Lions and the Windsor Express.

In their first NBL Canada season, the Five finished with a record of 21-19 and averaged over 1,825 fans per game to the Sudbury Community Arena.  Their two biggest draws were against the four-time NBL Canada champion London Lightning, as the Five brought 3,480 fans to the Arena on Nov. 22 for a Five win, then 3,234 on March 24 for a victory against that same Lightning team.

“I’ve immensely enjoyed watching Logan seamlessly transition from a player in our league into the role of team executive this season,” NBLC deputy commissioner Audley Stephenson said in a statement. “He’s confidently led the Five through a successful inaugural campaign both on and off the court and his work this year will prove to be key building blocks for the franchise’s future.”

Twitter: @ben_leeson

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