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Part 1 | NBL Awards Watch

NBL Awards Watch – Part 1 Having passed the halfway point of the 2015/16 regular season and with the business end quickly approaching, it’s time to take stock and highlight the leading contenders for each of NBL’s major individual awards.  In part 1 we take a look at the Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AJ Ogilvy (Illawarra Hawks) Illawarra’s man in the middle has been a consistent power of strength all season. Ogilvy is averaging 19 points, 9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks per game, while shooting 58 percent from the field and 85 percent from the charity stripe. The 2014 All-NBL First Team centre currently ranks top five across the League in points, boards, steals, blocks and FG%. Two-time NBL MVP Chris Anstey believes no other player is more important to their team. Corey Webster (New Zealand Breakers) Since Webster returned from his stint with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Breakers have gone 8-2 and have been arguably the hottest team in the NBL.  Webster, recently named November Player of the Month, is second in the league in scoring (22.4 points per game) and his partnership with point god Cedric Jackson gives the Breakers one of the most damaging backcourt pairings in the League. New Zealand began the season with three losses in four games without Webster – Ladbrokes now have them priced as the favourites to win it all. ‘Nuff said. Jerome Randle (Adelaide 36ers) The Adelaide 36ers made a bold move replacing Kenyon McNeail early in the season but the addition of Jerome Randle has been a masterstroke. The big-hearted point guard is averaging 22 points, 5 assists, 3.8 killer crossovers and 1.2 angry snarls per game. #JHandlez loves the big moments and stated recently that he’s just getting warmed up. As Melbourne United head coach Dean Demopoulos said when asked about Randle, “there’s always room for a small guy that plays big.” Ones to watch: Chris Goulding (Melbourne United), Jermaine Beal (Perth Wildcats), Cedric Jackson (New Zealand Breakers)   COACH OF THE YEAR Shawn Dennis (Townsville Crocodiles) The Crocs may have lost more games than they’ve won this season, but head coach Shawn Dennis nonetheless remains one of the leading candidates for Coach of the Year. Working with an extremely inexperienced roster, Dennis has his players believing in the game plan, buying into the team and operating as a cohesive unit. Wins over Perth (twice), Melbourne, Cairns, Sydney and Adelaide have shown that this Crocs team is larger than the sum of its parts – not an easy thing to achieve in professional sports. Bravo, Shawn Dennis. Dean Demopoulos (Melbourne United) In his first season in the NBL – his first year of head coaching since 2001 – Demopoulos has guided Melbourne to an 11-5 start and a spot near the top of the standings.  The track-record of American coaches arriving in Australia and immediately taking the reins of an NBL team has not been good, but Demopoulos doesn’t care and nor should he. The former NBA assistant kept his talented roster focused and hungry throughout an impressive 9-0 start. They’ve gone 2-5 since, so Demopoulos’ ability to right a sinking ship is well and truly being tested. Melbourne have a scary-good team on paper and Demopoulos should be applauded for ensuring they’ve mostly transferred that potential onto the hardwood. Trevor Gleeson (Perth Wildcats) The pressure is on in Perth with the Wildcats chasing a world record 30th straight trip to the postseason but the signs are good that they’ll achieve it. There were all kinds of question marks surrounding this team earlier in the year, especially after two shock losses to Townsville. Are they too top-heavy? Was Prather the right choice? Can they score enough points? Worry not, Gleeson is doing a fabulous job of adapting his schemes, maximising the strengths of his stacked roster and continuing the winning tradition in W.A. One to watch: Dean Vickerman (New Zealand Breakers)   BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER A.J. Ogilvy (Illawarra Hawks) The Hawks have been the worst defensive team in the League this season, giving up a 88.4 points per game while ranking last in defensive rebounding percentage (64.3) and trailing only Cairns for leaking points per 100 possessions.  That being said, they would have been much, much, MUCH worse it if wasn’t for A.J. Ogilvy. Ogilvy’s advanced defensive stats suffer due to his lack of defensive-minded friends, but he leads the NBL in steals per game (1.8), ranks second in blocks (2.0) and has been a constant presence on the glass.  All that while averaging only 2.8 fouls per game. Can we get the man some help? Majok Majok (Melbourne United) While most onlookers spent the early parts of the season mesmerised by their dazzling play at the offensive end, Melbourne were quietly playing some very sturdy defence. Heading into Round 10, United trailed only New Zealand in both defensive rating (107.2) and opponent points per game (80.4), thanks largely to the efforts of first-year centre Majok Majok. Majok led the NBL in both defensive rebounds per game (6.7) and defensive rebounding percentage (32.6) while ranking equal first (along with New Zealand’s Charles Jackson) in defensive rating (96.8). Those numbers have taken a mild hit with Melbourne’s big loss to Perth this weekend. Majok doesn’t block a lot of shots, but he holds excellent position and finishes possessions by cleaning the glass. He has provided Melbourne with the kind of interior presence – especially on defence – they so desperately lacked last season. Charles Jackson (New Zealand Breakers) The New Zealand Breakers possess the top-ranked defence in the NBL, allowing just 80 points per game and almost exactly 100 points per 100 possessions. Anchoring that defence has been first-year import Charles Jackson who has improved his play with each passing game.  The former Tennessee Tech standout ranks first for Defensive Rating (96.8) and ranks top five in rebounds (7.8) and blocks (1.13) per game. If he can stay out of foul trouble (he has committed at least 4 fouls in 9 games and has fouled out in 4), Jackson could make a serious run at this award down the stretch. Ones to watch: Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats) – can he catch them? Julian Khazzouh (Sydney Kings), Matt Knight (Perth Wildcats)  
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