The National League is delighted to announce the winners of this year’s Spalding NBL MVP Awards and Coach of the Year Awards 2016/17. With a tremendous level of interaction from National League clubs to have their say as well as over 4,300 NBL fans voting to swing the awards in their team’s favour, this season’s MVP race has been the biggest in NBL history! With 11 awards up for grabs, only 6 of the accolades went to divisional winners as teams and fans alike took performance into account alongside results. There is also recognition for 11 well deserving coaches who have led their teams admirably this year.
After receiving the top vote from 5 different D1M clubs, Team Northumbria’s Malcolm Smith capped a regular season to remember as the Clarksville, Tennessee native added MVP honours to a D1M league winners medal. The American has been integral to his side’s fortunes this term and despite being unable to convert the league title into a successful playoff run, Smith can still be proud of his efforts this year. Reading big man Chris Hooper came 2nd in the MVP race, unable to secure enough votes from D1M clubs to match Smith’s final total despite taking the fan vote. Manchester’s Stefan Gill was a narrow 3rd.
Team Northumbria's Malcolm Smith - Mansoor Ahmed
The D1W vote was a significantly more clear cut affair as American guard Ekemini Essien took the award by a landslide. A standout talent for Team Solent Kestrels all season, the 23-year-old received the most votes from D1W clubs as well as taking the fan vote by a considerable distance. With the Kestrels putting together a 19-1 season to win the league title, the were also National Cup runners up and will take a shot at playoff glory this weekend when they match up with rivals Southwark Pride in Manchester. Regardless of the outcome of that game, Essien has been integral to her side this season and is a worthy recipient of the D1W award. Fellow Kestrel Jodi Jerram wasn’t a popular choice for NBL fans but received a number of selections from fellow clubs to come 2nd, with Bristol Academy Flyers’ Amani Clark rounding out the top 3.
Team Solent Kestrels' Ekemini Essien - Mansoor Ahmed
Despite taking to the court for this weekend’s D2M Playoff Final, neither Kent nor Thames Valley were able to push a player into the final MVP conversation this season. In the most tightly contested award across the NBL, Team Newcastle’s Richard Austin narrowly edged fellow American Charlton Jones to claim the honours. After collecting an impressive 308 fan votes, Jones nearly managed to bring the award back to Tees Valley but Austin’s superior favour amongst D2M clubs swung things his way. After helping his side to a 19-3 record before losing out to eventual league winners Kent on the final day of the regular season, Austin has lifted Team Newcastle throughout the year. He also has a Patrons Cup winners medal to add to this season’s MVP award.
As two dominant forces during the regular season in D2W, it’s no surprise to see University of Nottingham and Oxford Brookes players collecting MVP honours. Nottingham’s Gabriela Bronson and Oxford’s Courtney Gray were both unanimous selections amongst their peers and have been recognised for their individual efforts.
Although they were beaten to the D3 North title by Team Birmingham Elite, University of Chester won’t finish the season empty handed after veteran Phil Brandreth picked up the MVP award. Joining him from the South is Oxford Brookes’ Abdoulaye Sylla who impressed teams throughout the campaign despite Oxford finishing the season with a 5-13 record.
Abdoulaye Sylla from Oxford Brookes University - Mansoor Ahmed
In D4 North, a single vote separated Manchester Giants II pair Daniel Pilkington and Josh Houghton but ultimately it was the former Liverpool man Pilkington who scooped the award after the Giants won their division at 17-1. With Northants Tauras claiming the D4 Midlands title before booking a place in the Playoff Finals, it’s no surprise the MVP winner comes from their roster. In this case its Arnas Maziliauskas and the 25-year-old would love to add post season success to an MVP award.
After impressing at last summer’s U18 European Championships, Lewisham’s Josh Edwards has transferred international success onto the domestic stage to help Lewisham to a solid 12-6 record this season. The future is clearly bright for Edwards and this MVP award will be further evidence that the 17-year-old is a significant talent. Rounding out the winners is Lewis Tucker who managed to help Cardiff City to a 12-4 record in D4 South West. Averaging a touch over 27PPG, Tucker’s output was integral to the Welsh side’s success.
With Spalding NBL Coach of the Year honours also up for grabs, Team Northumbria made it 2 for 2 in D1M as Head Coach Marc Steutel was recognised by his peers as the best coach in the division. With the North East side securing the league title on the back of a 10 game winning streak to end the regular season, it’s hard to argue that Steutel didn’t get the best out of his team.
Team Northumbria Head Coach Marc Steutel - Mansoor Ahmed
Southwark’s Jackson Gibbons was able to prevent Team Solent from making it a clean sweep in D1W as the popular coach can now add this accolade to a National Cup winners medal for the season. With his side getting prepared to line up in the Playoff Final this weekend, that could potentially land the 37-year-old a deserved trio of silverware for the year. After securing 5th place in D2M, London Westside’s Sam Stiller was also handed a Coach of the Year award. Overseeing the development of starlet Kayne Henry-McCalla, Stiller is clearly getting the best not only from Henry-McCalla but the rest of his roster as well.
It’s a repeat in D2W as University of Nottingham and Oxford Brookes University follow up MVP honours with Coach of the Year awards as well. Andrea Congreaves is recognised for guiding Nottingham to a 15-1 division win and a spot in the Playoff Final, whilst Zach Meekings receives the nod for topping the South division with Oxford Brookes.
Team Birmingham’s Steve Hansell and Southwark’s Sterling Muschett both collect awards in D3, with Danny Byrne from Manchester Giants II, Ross Norfolk from Essex Blades, Darijus Maldutis from Northants Tauras and Aaron Ebos from Cardiff City rounding out the D4 winners.
D1M – Malcolm Smith (Team Northumbria)
D1W – Ekemini Essien (Team Solent Kestrels)
D2M – Richard Austin (Team Newcastle University)
D2W North – Gabriela Bronson (University of Nottingham)
D2W South – Courtney Gray (Oxford Brookes University)
D3M North – Phil Brandreth (University of Chester)
D3M South – Abdoulaye Sylla (Oxford Brookes University)
D4M North – Daniel Pilkington (Manchester Giants II)
D4M Midlands – Arnas Maziliauskas (Northants Tauras)
D4M South East – Josh Edwards (London Thunder Lewisham)
D4M South West – Lewis Tucker (Cardiff City)
D1M – Marc Steutel (Team Northumbria)
D1W – Jackson Gibbons (Southwark Pride)
D2M – Sam Stiller (London Westside)
D2W North – Andrea Congreaves (University of Nottingham)
D2W South – Zach Meekings (Oxford Brookes University)
D3M North – Steve Hansell (Team Birmingham Elite)
D3M South – Sterling Muschett (Southwark Pride)
D4M North – Danny Byrne (Manchester Giants II)
D4M Midlands – Darijus Maldutis (Northants Tauras)
D4M South East – Ross Norfolk (Essex Blades)
D4M South West – Aaron Ebos (Cardiff City)