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Monday, April 23, 2007

Palmer's game on full display in final

Staff writer

David Palmer grew up idolizing Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird.

On a night when his team won its second straight bj-league title, the Osaka Evessa swingman did his best impression of the Hall of Famer before a raucous crowd at Tokyo's Ariake Colosseum.

Palmer took control of the contest early, scoring 10 points in the first quarter after coming off the bench, and carried the defending champions to glory in a resounding 94-78 victory over the Takamatsu Five Arrows.

The performance that Palmer put forth Sunday afternoon was nothing short of a work of art. Time after time, play after play, he came through with the goods.

Whether it was diving for a loose ball that he knocked to a teammate, hauling down a key rebound, or beating one of his opponents with a hustle play, the 201-cm Palmer did it all. He finished the game with a season-high 33 points and eight rebounds, earning the bj-league's second season's Most Valuable Player Award for his efforts.

It wasn't the sum total of his numbers that impressed the most, however, but rather the manner in which he achieved them.

During the course of the contest, Palmer hit a floater in the lane, a fadeaway from the corner, a leaner off the glass, a 3-pointer from downtown, and put the exclamation point on it all with a slam dunk off a backdoor play from last season's MVP Lynn Washington late in the fourth quarter.

It was the kind of effort that had observers wondering if he hadn't just played his way out of the bj-league and into one more prominent -- like the NBA.

Palmer's tale is in an interesting one.

Unnoticed coming out of Yuba City (Calif.) High School, he played junior college ball at American River College in Sacramento, where he earned All-State honors. But he was still under the radar and ended up at Southern Utah State -- not exactly a basketball hotbed.

After college he played a year in Czechoslovakia before joining the Evessa prior to the start of the inaugural bj-league season in the fall of 2005.

"I was a late bloomer," Palmer said while clutching his MVP trophy with an ice pack around his ankle. "I played a lot of baseball in high school, and only in the past few years have really worked at improving my basketball."

Palmer, now 25, noted that watching the NBA during the days of yore, when stars like Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were going head-to-head, made a big impact on him.

"Seeing those guys play and watching the intensity that was required really was inspiring to me," the Robbins, Calif., native said. "It was a great era and it helped me a lot."

Evessa coach Kensaku Tennichi gave a concise assessment of Palmer's role with the team following the victory.

"He's our scorer. And at the same time, he's a good team player. He's the core player of the core players."

Palmer admitted that his showing in the title game had him thinking about the NBA. "This gives me confidence for the future. We'll see where it goes from here."

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