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December: Player and Coach of the Month

Rob Beveridge and Kevin Lisch spearheaded the Perth Wildcats to an NBL Championship in their first year together. Now in their first season with the Illawarra Hawks, they have helped them end 2015 as the League's form team and have been named Coach and Player of the Month as a result. Beveridge took over as Wildcats coach for the 2009/10 season with Lisch his sole import out of Saint Louis University. The end result was the Championship and Lisch named Grand Final MVP. There were three more successful seasons together in Perth with Lisch winning a League MVP award and two more trips to the Grand Final before Beveridge stood down and Lisch left for Europe following the 2012/13 NBL season. Once Beveridge was appointed coach of the Illawarra Hawks for the 2015/16 season, Lisch was quickly his target and the pair's bond has been renewed in fine style heading towards the playoffs. The Hawks won five of their six games in December scoring an average of almost 102 points with a winning margin averaging 19.4 points. The only loss was an overtime thriller with the Cairns Taipans and they finished the year with 24-point wins over the New Zealand Breakers and Townsville Crocodiles. While Beveridge and Lisch take out the individual awards for December, it's the way the Hawks are playing as a group that has led to their outstanding form. The big three of Lisch, Kirk Penney and AJ Ogilvy might be garnering the attention, but Oscar Forman, Kevin White, Rhys Martin, Tim Coenraad, Larry Davidson, Cody Ellis and Jarrad Weeks are playing their roles to aplomb. Highlighting the performances by Illawarra in December, the Player of the Month runner-up was Penney behind Lisch while Beveridge was the stand out Coach of the Month winner. Voting was collated from a media panel of representatives, all submitting their selections for Coach and Player of the Month on a 3-2-1 basis. Beveridge can't speak highly enough of the way his entire group has come together after a difficult start with injuries to guards Martin, Lisch and Tyson Demos. "We've got our legitimate stars, our role players and everybody is just clicking. Probably the biggest thing is that these guys have worked so hard to get into the top four and that's the goal we set ourselves," Beveridge said. "We are still so far from solidifying that place so they do have to keep outworking teams and they can't expect to turn up and win games. The great thing about the group is that they do want to keep getting better and to make the playoffs, and go as far as they possibly can." Beveridge was excited to take over as coach with Illawarra but it was far from an easy decision with his wife, two sons and daughter remaining in Perth. However, his players have made it the right choice. "I've thoroughly enjoyed coaching this team. It's been a real buzz and the great thing is that the guys recognise that I made a huge sacrifice to move away from my family over to Wollongong, and they know I'm not here for a holiday and that I mean business," he said. "I'm very demanding of excellence from the players and they understand that's what is needed. I do have a tremendous group of guys who understand my situation and they work hard for me, and I work hard for them." Lisch averaged 22.7 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds through December, but his leadership, ball handling ability and stifling full-court and one-on-one defence earned him the NBL player of the month nod. Beveridge has been Lisch's only coach in the NBL and has noticed his significant growth on his return after two seasons playing in Spain. "He is 29 years of age now and he's been in the league a while, but with him going to Europe he played against such great players and in different roles. He was more of a point guard and a defensive stopper," Beveridge said. "He's always been able to play defence but I've seen him come back from Europe a better and more well-rounded player who is a better passer and leader. "He has come back more mature and he knows what his strengths and weaknesses are. He's an absolute pleasure to coach and everything that he gets, he deserves. It's not through luck, it's through determination and hard work."
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