Cotton crowned MVP for fourth time

NOW likely the greatest import in National Basketball League (NBL) history, Bryce Cotton secured his fourth Andrew Gaze Trophy for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the competition’s awards night on Monday.

The Andrew Gaze Awards crowned the best performers in a number of categories, and Cotton led the way with the league’s highest individual honour. Despite a slow start to the season, where he averaged just 14.4 points per game and was the 23rd best scorer, the star guard found his feet to turn not only his own campaign around, but that of the Perth Wildcats as a whole.

Once Cotton started to hit the scoreboard on a consistent basis, the tide started to turn and Perth’s wins became more frequent. He returned to his status as the best player in the NBL when at the peak of his powers, and stormed to the top of the scoring list.

Come season’s end, Cotton averaged 23.1 points per game to lead the competition, and was fifth in steals with 1.6 per game, and ninth in assists with 4.3 per game.

It is his fourth time claiming the Andrew Gaze Trophy, having previously been named the recipient in 2018, 2020 and 2021, while also finishing as the runner-up in 2022 and 2023 as well, having been the best player of the modern NBL era.

Melbourne United head coach Dean Vickerman claimed the Lindsay Gaze Award for Coach of the Year after leading his side to another dominant campaign. Heading into the postseason, United sit atop the standings and are the team to beat on the road to the 2023/24 NBL Championship.

Speaking of United, import Ian Clark was named the league’s Best Sixth Man after having a serious impact for Melbourne off the bench. Given the star power the team currently possesses, it makes sense that one of the big guns would need to move out of the starting lineup, and Clark did so, but still had a key role to play.

He averaged 13.6 points and two assists per game, doing most of his damage on accurate shooting from the field. Clark shot nearly 50 per cent from the field and 43.1 per cent from behind the arc, not needing too many opportunities to hit the scoreboard.

The ladder-leaders snagged another award, with guard Shea Ili taking home the Best Defensive Player award on Monday as well. Having finished as a finalist in years’ past, Ili finally took home the award in deserving fashion, capping off a brilliant comeback from concussion issues.

The Next Generation Award also went to Sam Froling, who has been rock solid for the Illawarra Hawks and consistent throughout both good and bad times.

Also announced were the All-NBL Teams, that recognised the 10 best players throughout the 2023/24 season.

All-NBL First Team

Bryce Cotton (Perth)
Chris Goulding (Melbourne)
Gary Clark (Illawarra)
Anthony Lamb (New Zealand)
Parker Jackson-Cartwright (New Zealand)

All-NBL Second Team

Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne)
Nathan Sobey (Brisbane)
Jo Lual-Acuil (Melbourne)
Milton Doyle (Tasmania)
Jack McVeigh (Tasmania)

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