Rotnei takes out NBL's top honour

BASKETBALL

Wollongong Hawks sensation Rotnei Clarke caused a boilover when he captured the NBL Most Valuable Player award for the 2013-14 season.

On a night when Wollongong scooped the pool at the annual season-ending ceremony, Clarke claimed the prestigious Andrew Gaze Trophy ahead of favourites James Ennis and Chris Goulding.

Hawks coach Gordie McLeod won the Lindsay Gaze Trophy as the NBL Coach of the Year and import Kevin Tiggs was named NBL Sixth Man of the Year, which recognises the league's top bench player.

McLeod was on a shortlist that included Perth's Trevor Gleeson and Adelaide's Joey Wright.

In an extremely tight player vote count, Clarke finished narrowly ahead of Melbourne star Chris Goulding, the league's leading scorer.

An early pacesetter, Ennis had to settle for third despite being the popular tip for MVP honours for most of the season.

Clarke rocketed up the leaderboard during the second half of the season, particularly the final six rounds. His surge coincided with the Hawks' improbable run from last to fourth spot.

The 24-year-old guard was fourth in the NBL in scoring with 21.4 points per game, made a league-high 95 three-point shots and finished third in free throw accuracy (81 per cent).

He becomes the Hawks' third MVP in the club's 35-year history. Mike Jones won in 1981 and Gary Ervin captured the top prize in 2011.

McLeod steered the Hawks to a 13-15 record and a semi-finals clash with Perth.

The 57-year-old was named the league's top coach in the 2009-10 season after Wollongong reached the grand final.

Tiggs was the Hawks' second-leading scorer and proved to be a versatile and reliable player at both ends of the court.

Perth guard Damian Martin won the Best Defensive Player award for an unprecedented fourth straight season.

Perth centre Tom Jervis was Rookie of the Year while Melbourne's Nate Tomlinson was the Most Improved Player.

Clarke, Goulding, Ennis were named in the All-NBL First Team with Sydney's AJ Ogilvy and Adelaide's Daniel Johnson.

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