24/04/2024

Bryce Cotton capped off an excellent season by claiming his fourth MVP in eight seasons. (Image Perth Wildcats website)

Bryce Cotton cemented his NBL legacy as one of the best imports ever by winning his fourth MVP to move into outright second for most MVPs.

Perth Wildcats superstar Bryce Cotton won his fourth Andrew Gaze MVP trophy at The NBL awards, a.k.a The Gazeys.

He was one of three MVP nominees (118 votes) alongside Melbourne United sharpshooter Chris Goulding (53 votes) and speedy New Zealand Breakers point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright (50 votes).

After one of his quietest starts in his illustrious eight NBL seasons, averaging only 14.4 points on 31.1 per cent shooting and 24.6 per cent from distance in the side’s first seven games, he propelled himself to dazzling offensive heights seen numerous times.

In the final 21 games, the offensive genius averaged 24.9 points, including 11 20-point games, five 30-points and scoring a season-high 41 points in a December 1 win over rivals the Sydney Kings.

In turning around his slow start, Cotton led the league in scoring ahead of South East Melbourne Phoenix’s Mitch Creek (20.8 points), Jackson-Cartwright (20.2 points), and Brisbane Bullets dynamic scorer Nathan Sobey (20.1 points).

Winning the coveted prize places Cotton into outright second for most MVPs, surpassing Brisbane Bullets legend Leroy Loggins (three MVPs).

He only trails Andrew Gaze, who won seven league MVPs.

After placing third last season in the Damian Martin Trophy Defensive Player of the Year, Melbourne United defensive point guard Shea Ili (59 votes) won his maiden award, outlasting Tasmania JackJumpers pair Will Magnay (36 votes) and Sean McDonald (34 votes).

The defensive maestro was at his clinical best, hounding opposition players on the perimeter.

Ili becomes the side’s first player to win the award since Chris Anstey in 2008. His defensive instincts saw him average 1.1 steals. And on only seven occasions he didn’t register a steal, recording multiple steals in nine games.

In its second season, the Next Generation Award went to Illawarra Hawks big man Sam Froling (51 votes). He joins Cairns Taipans and inaugural winner Sam Waardenberg to win the award.

The 24-year-old has made incremental improvements in each of his five seasons, establishing himself as one of the league’s upcoming big men. He finished third in scoring for the Illawarra Hawks, averaging 14.6 points, behind sniper Tyler Harvey and the consistent Gary Clark.

Whilst his offensive game flourished, his facilitating became an underrated arsenal to his game. He finished equal-third amongst centres for assists (two), alongside Perth Wildcats’ athletic big man Keanu Pinder.

He finished second in rebounding (7.9), with Phoenix double-double machine Alan Williams (10.9) leading the way.

Melbourne United sharpshooter Ian Clark (73 votes) took home the Sixth Man of the Year award ahead of Will Magnay (29 votes) and Sean McDonald (28 votes).

The lights-out guard enjoyed an excellent season, averaging 13.6 points on 49.2 per cent shooting and a team-best 43.1 per cent from three-point territory. The former Sydney Kings champion was a consistent contributor off the bench, providing reliable shot-making, complementing Chris Goulding.

He joins teammates Shea Ili, Jo Lual-Acuil Jr, and former club player Hakim Warrick, Darryl McDonald, and Stephen Hoare (twice) to win Sixth Man of the Year.

After missing out on Sixth Man, Tasmania JackJumpers guard Sean McDonald (48 votes) would cap off an excellent third season by taking home the Most Improved Player award.

The other nominees were Sydney Kings high-flyer Jaylin Galloway (40 votes) and Brisbane Bullets rim-protector Tyrell Harrison (36 votes).

Starting as a development player, McDonald has quickly gained the trust of coach Scott Roth, especially this season playing integral minutes down the stretch. Adding to his breakout year, he led the team for three-point shooting at 46.8 per cent.

McDonald is the first guard to win the award since Reuben Te Rangi in 2018/2019.

Meanwhile, Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman (58 votes) won his third Lindsay Gaze Coach of the Year trophy.

Illawarra Hawks coach Justin Tatum (52 votes) and Perth Wildcats coach John Rillie (25 votes) were the other two nominees, having turned their respective sides seasons’ around, especially Tatum, who replaced Jacob Jackomas in mid-November after a 2-7 start.

After missing out on finals last season to the Perth Wildcats on percentage, the defensive-minded coach guided the team to the top of the ladder with a 20-8 record.

On top of orchestrating the league’s best record, Vickerman elevated United back to their prowess ways on both ends of the floor, with the team finishing top-three in offensive and defensive rating.

He joins former Brisbane Bullets and Adelaide 36ers coach Joey Wright, and Lindsay Gaze as a three-time coach of the year.

In a first this season there would be positionless awards for second and first All-NBL teams.

Mitch Creek, Nathan Sobey, Jo Lual-Acuil Jr, and JackJumpers teammates Jack McVeigh and Milton Doyle, were named to the All-NBL Second Team.

Meanwhile, Breakers import Anthony Lamb, MVP Bryce Cotton, Hawks import Gary Clark, and MVP nominees Chris Goulding and Parker Jackson-Cartwright rounded out the NBL All-First team.

Other award winners from the event include Melbourne United CEO Nick Truelson winning Executive of the Year, Adelaide 36ers guard Sunday Dech taking the Gametime by Kmart Award for his work in his community, and long-time referee Vaughan Mayberry claiming his third straight NBL referee of the year.

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