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January: Player and Coach of the Month

Joey Wright and Jerome Randle have developed a remarkable bond as player and coach in less than one NBL season together and after lifting the Adelaide 36ers into the top four during January, they have claimed the Player and Coach of the Month honours. Randle has openly admitted that Wright is his best and favourite coach of his college and professional career, and as a result he has put in some remarkable performances after arriving three games into the season. The 36ers had some catching up to do to be in the NBL Finals race coming into January, but won their first four games of the month to top off a six-game winning run to enter the top four and to remain there with just under two full rounds remaining. While the coaching of Wright and the remarkable play of Randle has put Adelaide into fourth position, the star suffered a nasty looking knee injury to end January as his 36ers held on to beat the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday night. Randle missed Wednesday's game at Titanium Security Arena which the Sixers lost to the New Zealand Breakers and with him expected to missed the team's final three games of the season, the battle is on to ensure they remain in a Finals position. The 36ers finish on the road to the Cairns Taipans, Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats with the Breakers and Snakes breathing down their necks to snatch fourth position. However, looking back on January and it was a month where Randle asserted himself as the standout individual player in the NBL this season and where Wright cemented his legacy as an all-time great coach. Through January, Randle played some simple unstoppable basketball where he became must-watch viewing whether on television via Fox Sports or live in the arenas across the league. Before getting hurt on Saturday night, Randle's five games in January saw him average 30.8 points and 6.2 assists a game. Not only was he scoring at a remarkable clip capable of getting to the rim, the free-throw line and to hit inside and outside, but he was finding his teammates and creating a particularly effective duo with big man Daniel Johnson. Randle's most remarkable performance took place at home to the Sydney Kings when the Sixers had to fight back to shake off the visitors with Randle finishing with a stunning 41 points, five rebounds and three assists while nailing 16-of-21 from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point range. While Randle was his star performer throughout January, the performance as coach has only further enhanced Wright's reputation as coach in the NBL. During a month when he reached his 400th game of involvement in the NBL taking in his playing career at the Geelong Supercats, and coaching tenures with the Brisbane Bullets, Gold Coast Blaze and now the Adelaide 36ers, Wright continues to be at the top of his game. Wright guided the Sixers to wins over New Zealand, Townsville, Sydney and Melbourne to start January. That capped a six-game winning run before a road loss to the Hawks and Saturday's home win over Illawarra. As pleased as Wright was with January in terms of what his team and Randle did, he was disappointed with Wednesday's 22-point loss at home to the Breakers meaning they need at least one win in their last three road games to guarantee a Finals spot. "We should have done a better job with Jerome out than what we did," Wright said. "What they (New Zealand) did to us as far as Ced (Cedric Jackson) and Corey (Webster), I don’t know if Jerome could have made a difference in that respect. We could have done a better job with the unit we had. "We were flat coming out, I'm still trying to figure out why but we have some other guys who are playing through injuries as well as Jerome." With or without Randle for the last three road games of the season, Wright's message is a simple one for what he expects. "We plan on playing a lot better than we did in this game, that's it."
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