Illawarra already have one NBL MVP on their roster, but could they have a second by season’s end?
Gun import Demitrius Conger has emerged as a serious contender for the competition’s top gong after another superb round.
He had a game-high 24 points, five rebounds and five assists in Illawarra’s 106-102 victory over Cairns Taipans on Thursday night.
The star forward then backed up the display with a near triple-double of 24 points, eight rebounds, eight assists as well as three steals in the club’s New Year’s Eve win over Brisbane Bullets.
Hawks coach Rob Beveridge gave high praise to his talented import following the club’s latest win over the weekend.
“He is a special player,” he said.
“What is making him better is his work ethic is great. At 8 o’clock the night before the game he was in the gym shooting.
“We identified if you look at the scout that he is not a great shooter as such but that is what we are working on.
“That’s what makes him so much better. We know he can post up. We know he is a slasher and all of those things. He is adding parts to his game which are making him an incredible player.”
Conger is in the top ten for both points and rebounds.
The St. Bonaventure alum is averaging 19.5 points (third) and 5.9 rebounds (9th) as well 3 assists (13th) and 1.1 steals (18th).
Those numbers compare favourably to most of the league’s other notable MVP candidate, which includes teammate and 2013-14 MVP winner Rotnei Clarke.
Clarke is fourth in the league in scoring with 18.8 points. Perth Wildcats duo Bryce Cotton and Jean Pierre Tokoto, New Zealand’s Edgar Sosa and Brisbane’s Perrin Buford are all top hopes to claim the competition’s highest individual prize.
Cotton is second in the league in scoring with 19.8 points while Tokoto continues to stuff the stat sheet, with 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and a league leading 2 steals.
The two stars have been instrumental in Perth’s rise to the top of the competition.
Meanwhile, Sosa has pulled the strings for New Zealand in what has been an impressive debut NBL season. Buford has also had a stellar maiden campaign, with 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals. He was unable to play against Conger in the Hawks’ demolition of the Bullets at WIN Entertainment Centre because of an ankle sprain.
In his absence, Brisbane found it near impossible to guard Conger.
“When you need to guard someone like Conger, it presents its challenges when you have to go smaller on him,” Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said.