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Part 2 | NBL Awards Watch

Having passed the halfway point of the 2015/16 regular season it’s time to take stock and highlight the leading contenders for each of the NBL’s major individual awards. In Part 1 we looked at the Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards. Now we focus on Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player and Rookie of the Year. SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR Torrey Craig (Cairns Taipans) The Cairns Taipans possess the most productive bench unit in the league, and this season athletic forward Torrey Craig is the leader of the pack. Averaging 11 points and five rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game, Craig has led the Taipans in both points and boards on three occasions this season. He is also one of only a handful of players across the NBL currently averaging over a block per game. Hakim Warrick (Melbourne United) We haven’t seen of the best of Hakim Warrick just yet as Melbourne’s high-profile import has struggled with injury and form throughout the first half of the season. Nonetheless, head coach Dean Demopoulos has still enjoyed the 12.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game that Warrick has added off the bench in the ten games he’s played thus far. Constantly looking to dunk on anything that moves, Warrick is a top-ten play waiting to happen whenever he’s on the floor.  Look for the high-flying big man to serve up more facials – and more consistent production – in the second half of the season. Jarrad Weeks (Illawarra Hawks) ‘Agent 97’ has been a revelation for the Hawks this season and his impact off the bench has been vital for Rob Beveridge’s crew. Weeks has scored eight or more points in eight games and has often built momentum for his team with his dynamic, high-energy play. Impressively, the secret agent has done his work while maintaining a high level of efficiency; he’s shooting 50.8 per cent from field, 46.5 per cent from three and 82.4 per cent from the foul line and is averaging just a single turnover per game. Ones to watch: Ebi Ere (Adelaide 36ers), Tim Coenraad (Illawarra Hawks), Jesse Wagstaff (Perth Wildcats)   MOST IMPROVED PLAYER Jarrad Weeks (Illawarra Hawks) Someone in Hollywood should buy the rights to the Jarrad Weeks story, as his tale of self-belief and perseverance is truly inspirational. Played sparingly by the Sydney Kings over a four-year period, Weeks took his talents to Germany before jumping at the opportunity to serve as an injury replacement for Illawarra point guard Rhys Martin at the beginning of the season. Nicknamed ‘Agent 97’ after wearing the team’s ‘blood spare’ jersey for his first few games, Weeks has provided a vital spark off the bench for the Hawks and has been rewarded with a contract extended until the end of the season. As Kirk Penney said on the Hardball Podcast recently, “he’s just taken the bull by the horns and is playing awesome.” Clint Steindl (Townsville Crocodiles) Steindl hasn’t taken a massive leap on the stat-sheet this season, but his improved play has been obvious to all who have watched him play. More confident to take (and make) shots in big moments, Steindl has also displayed an improved ability to aggressively attack the rim off the dribble. Despite playing the same volume of minutes per game as last season, the fourth-year pro has improved his scoring average from 9.5 to 12.2 while also increasing his output on the boards and becoming a more active and well-rounded defender. For what it’s worth, Steindl has only missed one free throw all season – his 22/23 shooting including two clutch shots to ice a road win over Melbourne United. Jason Cadee (Sydney Kings Among the injured imports, mid-season NBA recruits and coaching changes that have engulfed the Sydney Kings’ season, combo-guard Jason Cadee has taken yet another step towards NBL stardom. With club stalwart Ben Madgen playing in Europe, Cadee has made the most of his extra opportunities, increasing his scoring output by over four points per game while grabbing more boards, dropping more dimes and swiping more steals than he did in his first season with the Kings. One to watch: Tai Wesley (New Zealand Breakers) – would be listed above if not for numerous missed games due to injury.   ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Nick Kay (Townsville Crocodiles) Entering the NBL after four years at Metro State College of Denver, Townsville’s Nick Kay is averaging 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and is ranked top five across the NBL for field goal percentage (.557) and offensive rebounding (2.7 per game). The impressive big man has stated his desire to win this award and with others like Majok Majok and Jarrod Kenny ineligible (due to previous seasons playing professionally overseas), he’s currently in the driver’s seat. Igor Hadziomerovic (Melbourne United) Recruited out of Boise State and hailing originally from the Melbourne Tigers junior program, Hadziomerovic quickly played himself into Dean Demopoulos’ regular rotation. He has seen over eight minutes of action in every game this season and his high-energy play has helped swing momentum towards United on a couple of occasions. He was shooting almost 50 per cent from three after Melbourne’s opening 10 games but has cooled down considerably since then. Ones to watch: Jeromie Hill (Sydney Kings), Matt Hodgson (Adelaide 36ers)
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