Wollongong Hawks guard Rotnei Clarke and Melboure Tigers coach Chris Anstey have been voted as the NBL’s player and coach of the month for December.
Clarke starred in all four games for Wollongong during the voting period in home and away battles against Melbourne and Sydney.
“This is obviously a great honour to be recognised by the judges of this award,” Clarke said.
“This is a great league to be a part of and it is full of some wonderful players. I feel really blessed to be a part of it.”
The Hawks’ imports run started with a game-high 27-point haul against the Kings and he backed that up a week later as Wollongong overcame a halftime deficit in Sydney.
He scored a team-high 16 in the Hawks’ loss to the Tigers to start round 11, but it was his performance on New Year’s Eve that sealed his Player of the Month award.
Clarke poured in a season-high 37 in a master class that almost took the Hawks to victory in double-overtime. Such was his dominance; the next highest scoring Hawk hit just eight points for the game.
“I have to pay a lot of credit to the big guys in our team for that game,” Clarke said. “We have a very unselfish team and guys like Dave Gruber and Larry Davison were putting up some great screens and they kept feeding me the ball when they knew I was on a hot streak.”
This is Clarke’s first professional assignment since graduating from the US College system, where he starred for Butler.
“I’ve had some good runs of form playing through school over the years but playing professionally is another step up and it’s just great to be doing it and playing well,” he said.
“We’ve lost a couple of close games over the past month but we’re still very positive at the Hawks. There’s a long way to go in this season and playing in the finals is still very much a focus for us. This is a really important month coming up that will make or break our season.”
Clarke topped the voting ahead of the past two winners of the Player of the Month award. Melbourne’s Chris Goulding and Perth’s James Ennis rounded out the top three in the most widely contested month of the season so far.
Six coaches snared votes in the Coach of the Month poll but the Tigers’ Chris Anstey was a unanimous choice.
The judges recognised Anstey for plotting Melbourne’s unbeaten four-game winning streak through December. He polled 22 of a maximum 24 votes.
“I’ve always said it’s not about me, it’s about getting the players to buy into what we’re doing and I feel like that has started taking shape over the past few weeks,” Anstey said.
“We’re starting to resemble the team that I know we can become. We’re not there yet but the longer we can maintain that, the more consistent we can become.”
“We have started to show an ability to win close games and get out of jail when required so there is a growing sense of self-belief in the group. It’s now halfway through the season and because of what we did in December we’ve given ourselves a shot and a launching pad to make a run for the finals.”
It is the first time Anstey has won the Coach of the Month award since taking the reins at the Tigers. Cairns’ Aaron Fearne and Perth’s Trevor Gleeson trailed Anstey in the count.