Sydney star Xavier Cooks has capped off a stunning season by being named the NBL’s Most Valuable Player, adding to his allure for already keen NBA teams.
The 27-year-old big man did it all this season, averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in leading his team to the minor premiership, dominating both ends of the floor as a hyper-efficient anchor for the Kings.
Ballarat-born Cooks, who grew up in Wollongong while father Eric played for the Hawks, was a runaway winner of the Andrew Gaze Trophy, beating out Perth’s triple-MVP Bryce Cotton by 24 votes. Star South East Melbourne forward Mitch Creek was third.
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Only injury has stood in the way of Cooks being the league’s best player in each of the past two years and the top individual honour is rich reward for his rapid improvement.
The crown is another feat to add to a resume that includes a 2021 NBL finals MVP in the Kings’ championship and underscores the strong interest from NBA scouts.
He joins Andrew Bogut and Jaylen Adams as the third King in the past five season to take home the award.
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The trio of MVP finalists were joined in the All-NBL First Team by versatile Tasmania guard Milton Doyle and Kings’ floor general Derrick Walton Jr.
Adelaide 36ers’ star Antonius Cleveland’s rugged defence helped him make it consecutive Damian Martin trophies.
The American was named Defensive Player of the Year in a field of three which sparked controversy during the week.
The Kings’ hierarchy was miffed Cooks and lockdown wing Justin Simon were not named among the three finalists. Even Martin, himself, had Simon winning the award.
Cleveland, who was the reigning winner after his brilliant season in Illawarra, used his supreme athleticism to impact games at the defensive end — although his team struggled to contain opponents.
Cairns mentor Adam Forde held off New Zealand’s Mody Maor and Sydney’s Chase Buford for the Coach of the Year after spearheading Cairns’ rise up the ladder. Forde used pre-season predictions the Taipans would finish last to spur his team to third on the ladder.
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Maor could consider himself a little stiff, given the Breakers had spent the best part of two Covid-affected seasons in the doldrums, playing home games in Australia, before he took the reins, revamped the roster and led the Breakers into the semi finals.
Cairns dominated the other awards on a banner night for the club, star big man Keanu Pinder taking home back-to-back Most Improved Player gongs, teammate Sam Waardenburg claiming the Next Generation Award and club boss Mark Beecroft named the league’s Executive of the Year.
Breakers’ bench spark plug Barry Brown Jr was the obvious Best Sixth Man, netting more than half the votes after his instant offence put him in the top five scorers in the league.
Departing Adelaide 36er Kai Sotto enjoyed a flood of support from his Filipino compatriots, claiming a second consecutive Fans MVP.
Andrew Gaze Trophy for Most Valuable Player
Xavier Cooks (Sydney) – 120 votes
Bryce Cotton (Perth) – 96 votes
Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne) – 80 votes
Most Improved Player
Keanu Pinder (Cairns) – 48 votes
Will McDowell-White (New Zealand) – 46 votes
Sean Macdonald (Tasmania) – 34 votes
Damian Martin Trophy for the Best Defensive Player
Antonius Cleveland (Adelaide) – 37 votes
Dererk Pardon (New Zealand) – 34 votes
Shea Ili (Melbourne) – 26 votes
Best Sixth Man
Barry Brown Jr (New Zealand) – 73 votes
Tyler Johnson (Brisbane) – 41 votes
Rashard Kelly (Tasmania) – 26 votes
Lindsay Gaze Trophy for Coach of the Year
Adam Forde (Cairns) – 64 votes
Mody Maor (New Zealand) – 52 votes
Chase Buford (Sydney) – 34 votes
Next Generation Award
Sam Waardenburg (Cairns) – 47 votes
Sam Froling (Illawarra) – 45 votes
Luke Travers (Perth) – 24 votes
All-NBL First Team
Xavier Cooks (Sydney) – 54 votes
Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne) – 45 votes
Bryce Cotton (Perth) – 54 votes
Milton Doyle (Tasmania) – 42 votes
Derrick Walton Jr (Sydney) – 41 votes
All-NBL Second Team
Keanu Pinder (Cairns) – 33 votes
Dererk Pardon (New Zealand) – 22 votes
Barry Brown Jr (New Zealand) – 37 votes
DJ Hogg (Cairns) – 30 votes
Chris Goulding (Melbourne) – 23 votes
Executive of the Year
Mark Beecroft (Cairns)
Kai Sotto (Adelaide)
Gametime by Kmart Award
Reuben Te Rangi (South East Melbourne)
Referee of the Year